During the dot-com boom, Midtown resident Sylvia Gartner went to a city council meeting, waved a paper bag and said, "If I can't put something in a bag and take it home, it's not retail."
Her gesture was part of the Midtown Residents Association (MRA)'s effort to prevent the shopping area from being filled with computer startups or dot-com businesses. Gartner said that those didn't help the area, and the MRA wanted the shopping center to be "neighborhood-serving," Gartner said.
This focus on residential life is key to the culture of Midtown, which extends from Oregon Expressway to Loma Verde Avenue and Alma Street to West Bayshore Road.
Just ask the residents. Kerry Kenny moved to Midtown as a child in 1983 and lived there until college. As an adult with her own children, she moved back in 2005.
"We love being able to walk to get a great cup of coffee in the morning, ice cream in the evening, but also have the serenity of the quiet streets and lovely parks in the neighborhood," she said.
The Midtown Residents Association has focused on preserving the neighborhood feel that sets the area apart. Gartner was among the founding members in 1994.
"We were all concerned about how Midtown was starting to look really ragged with businesses closed in the shopping district and boarded windows. So we all met at what is now Mike's Cafe and agreed that we needed to form an association to see what we could do to prevent the deterioration of our neighborhood," she said.
In addition to successfully asking the city council to keep the shopping district strictly commercial, members hold monthly meetings and block parties and threw their 15th annual ice cream social in September.
"Things keep coming and going. Now we have a couple karate studios and exercise places and sandwich places. I remember when there was Bergman's department store. I really miss it," Gartner said.
Kenny said the home renovations are an improvement, calling the mix of new homes and Eichlers "eclectic" and praising the expanded shopping center.
Jill Matzke, who moved to Midtown in 1995, said the development makes the area more attractive for new residents and loves the local Hoover, Greer and Mitchell parks.
"There's such a sense of safety, and we're a true residential neighborhood with a vibrant community. The neighborhood is full of life with children and the next generation moving in," Matzke said.
-- Angela Chen
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Grace Lutheran Preschool, 3149 Waverley St.; Love'n'Care Christian Preschool, 2490 Middlefield Road; Mini Infant Center of Palo Alto, 3149 Waverley St.; Ohlone Kids' Club (PACCC), 950 Amarillo Ave.; Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, 957 Colorado Ave.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: between Oregon Expressway and Loma Verde Avenue, Alma Street and West Bayshore Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Sheri Furman, 650-856-0869, firstname.lastname@example.org, Midtown Residents Association
PARKS: Greer Park, 1098 Amarillo Ave.; Hoover Park, 2901 Cowper St.; Seale Park, 3100 Stockton Place
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Keys School, 2890 Middlefield Road; HeadsUp! Emerson School, 2800 W. Bayshore Road; The Girls' Middle School, 3400 W. Bayshore Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: El Carmelo, Fairmeadow, Hoover, Ohlone and Palo Verde elementary schools; J. L. Stanford Middle School; Gunn or Palo Alto high schools
SHOPPING: Midtown Shopping Center, Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue; also Middlefield Road at Loma Verde Avenue
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $1,525,000 ($870,000-$3,300,000)
HOMES SOLD: 65
MEDIAN 2012 CONDO PRICE: $715,000 ($355,000-$1,111,000)
CONDOS SOLD: 11