The Square is a shopping center on the corner of Main and MacArthur, across the 405 from John Wayne Airport. As malls go in Irvine, it's clean and well-kept. Just as you'd expect from an Irvine Company property.
It's probably a bit long in the tooth as compared to what's come along in the years since it was built. It must be at least 30 years old. Like many malls dotting the City of Irvine's commercial hubs it it's a nice place to go. But, aside side from a pleasant atmosphere, it shares another important trait with many of its newer siblings.
It's a difficult spot to navigate on Monday through Fridays during business hours. After that, and especially on weekends, business for the shops falls off faster than Chris Christie summarily firing errant employees for lying.
To backtrack, I say it's been around for at least 30 years as that's when the Orange County Wheelmen began meeting there on Saturday mornings.
According to the Wheelmen's Lee Stebbins it's been a relationship notably lacking in conflict. But after thirty years of staging rides at The Square, riders from the OC Wheelmen were informed on January 1 by a security guard that parking at The Square was only for patrons. Once you left you were no longer a "patron." Any cars left there by persons who had vacated the premises ("No longer patrons") would be ticketed or towed.
To be fair, on the first day of the New Year the mall was locked up. Nobody open, nobody home. So the guard may have had a point, technically, Stebbins admitted. "I guess you can't be a patron if everything's closed."
From information provided by Stebbins and other Wheelmen board members their efforts to contact The Square's Property Manager were less than a simple case of finding a person, a phone number, and making a call. (I can empathize with this. I am no hard-boiled detective, but I had a terrible time finding a phone number to contact the Irvine Company in general, much less a press relations person. It's a set up with a very unhopeful option to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do find a phone number you're only option is to leave a voice message. I do have to say, though that I did get a call back very quickly.)
The Wheelemen found their own end-around, and got as far an assistant property manager. And there the buck stopped, dead cold. She repeated the security guard's litany. It's company policy ("Thou Shalt Not Shop, Park and Leave"). Park, ride and face the consequences. End of discussion.
Again, according to the Wheelmen I spoke with, there seemed to be no concern or appreciation (in their estimation from talking with staff at several of the shops in The Square) that the cyclists who converge on the center constitute a significant part of the Saturday economy. (A Starbucks associate alluded to the fact that without the sales to cyclists on Saturdays to offset the morgue The Square morphs into on Sundays, weekends would be a revenue red number.)
Now, cyclists are not known as big spenders, but who in their right mind would turn away business? Especially business that it didn't cost you a penny in advertising or marketing money to generate in a place begging for customers on weekends?
Hopefully, this will all turn out to be a big misunderstanding. The person from the Irvine Company I spoke with seemed genuinely unaware about the goings on, and mused that there had even been a recent company-wide event in which cycling was promoted. Maybe it's just a case that someone, as my Dad would say about front-desk building department plan checkers, "Took a morsel of authority and made a gourmet meal out of it."
Maybe a simple, "2 Hour Parking Mon-Fri 8am til 6 pm" would solve the issue?
The Square isn't the only center in Irvine that's used as a base by cyclists. But so far it's the only one that's targeted the business that bicyclists bring to malls that wither on weekends.
However, in the end, it's the Irvine Company's property and they are within their rights to do what they will with their holdings. Even if it makes a community that lauds itself as "Bicycle Friendly" appear a little less so.