What's been happening around town?
Fans flocked to the Irvine Spectrum recently to enjoy the opening of the first Hello Kitty Café in the U.S. The grand opening of the pop-up restaurant in a colorful shipping container drew long lines of admirers of the cute cartoon characters. Or perhaps it was the sweet treats, sodas and coffee drinks that were the draw. Either way, patrons and onlookers busily posted selfies and Instagram posts from the location.
Gratitude and Honor
The Irvine City Council voted to expand and improve the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, which lists and honors the names of all American service members who died in Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Improvements budgeted at $130,000 will include adding two new pillars to the site to include the addition of new names; adding benches; and including Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
Bank of America awarded a $15,000 grant to Irvine-based nonprofit Working Wardrobes. The funds will help the VetNet program, which provides veterans with job training and placement, housing referrals and other career services. VetNet has helped 15,000 veterans in just three years. “Job training programs are a crucial part of the solution to help our local veterans secure jobs with livable wages and position them for financially stable futures,” says Allen Staff, Bank of America’s Orange County market president. Working Wardrobes helps men, women, young adults, and veterans overcome difficult challenges so they can achieve the dignity of work.
Veterans Cemetery Update
California’s Veterans Affairs department estimates that the cost of creating a Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park site will cost $77.4 million. CalVet has submitted an application for federal funding that would cover about half the initial cost, with the state of California, Orange County and/or Irvine expected to fund the remaining. Earlier this year, the City Council rejected a land swap proposal whereby Great Park development manager FivePoint would have considered offering 125 acres of property it owns near the 5/405 Freeway “Y” in exchange for the land at the original site. The advantage to the exchange for veterans and taxpayers is that the FivePoint site was within the “crash zone” at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, and thus has no buildings or infrastructure to remove, a task that comes with significant costs. A cemetery at the new site would be cheaper, presumably available sooner, and would resolve complaints from neighbors of the first site. No word on whether the original land swap offer is still an option.