Adjacent to the 57 (Orange) freeway and near California State University at Fullerton, Brea has many parks and a downtown redevelopment project that includes a new community center. The city is also home to a regional mall and numerous shopping centers featuring everything from discount stores to a Nordstrom.
Brea was incorporated in 1917 with a population of 752, but modern development of the area dates back to 1894 when the Union Oil Company began drilling for oil in Carbon Canyon. In 1898, the first oil well came in and it started an oil boom. The first workers lived in tents. As the industry grew, settlements spilled down to where the roads connected to the rest of the county. For a short time the early settlement's name was Randolph.
The city grew steadily through the years. As oil production declined, the 1940s, 50s and 60s brought many new housing developments and new businesses. The 70s ushered in an incredible period of development with the opening of the Orange (57) Freeway. Industrial parks and retail areas proliferated in Brea during the 70s and 80s as more and more companies took advantage of the city's strategic location in the center of Southern California.
Today Brea is an important retail and industrial center. The Brea Mall recently underwent an extensive renovation and expansion effort that nearly doubled its space and added another major department store - J.C. Penney - to an already-impressive roster. Two other anchor stores - Macy's and Robinson-May, are currently expanding their facilities. A full-service 229-room Embassy Suites Hotel opened in 1990, and attracts visitors, conferences and small conventions from many domestic and foreign locales.
Other significant redevelopment projects have also been completed in recent years as Brea strives to create a vibrant, people-friendly downtown. Some of Brea's older buildings will be renovated and preserved in a "Heritage Block" setting in the area.
Brea is planning for the future through community task forces that discuss open space and potential residential and commercial development in the city's "sphere of influence" which encompasses 7 1/2 square miles of unincorporated land in the hills to the north of the city. Nearly 150 residents participated in a consensus-building workshop that addressed issues such as environmental preservation and economics. This pro-active approach to development ensures that Brea will continue to be a vital, beautiful place to live, work and do business in the years ahead.
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