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The Greenhouse


"I just like it here, and I can't imagine living anywhere else," said Ellen Fletcher, a 30-year resident of The Greenhouse. Fletcher, who moved into her condominium in 1978, said she loves the sense of community and the diversity in age and household makeup of the Greenhouse.

"The unit across from mine has a young family and they've got two children who are 2 and 5 years old. They're just delightful," she said.

The Greenhouse, located at 777 San Antonio Road, between Middlefield Road and Fabian Way in south Palo Alto, has been attracting residents with its calm, green atmosphere and convenient location since 1975.

Developed by the Alpha Land Company, the complex was named for the greenhouses once owned by Bell Nurseries, after plans to build a K-Mart on the site fell through in the early 1970s. In 1978, 88 additional units were built in the same style on the adjoining land. The new condominiums, located at 765 San Antonio Road, came to be called The Greenhouse II.

When the original complex opened 33 years ago, the price for a unit was $34,950, but by 2007 prices had risen roughly 17 times. Today, 30 to 40 percent of Greenhouse residents are renters, compared with 25 percent in 1975.

"The developer ... made very generous use of the property's open space," said 28-year resident Bruce Campbell, about one of the features that first attracted him to the complex in 1980. "It's hard to imagine a development with so much room left for lawns, landscaping and greenery being built today," he added.

Size of units and location remain a big draw to The Greenhouse, and now residents include single adults, young families and married couples whose children have gone on to college or homes of their own. Part of the attraction, particularly for The Greenhouse's older residents, is that there is none of the maintenance, upkeep or gardening that comes with being a homeowner.

"Many people are attracted to 'condo living' because in a way, you get the best of both worlds. You get the comfort and privacy of a home, with little of the responsibility for upkeep," said Paul Luskin, president of the Greenhouse II Homeowners Association.

"My fiance — now my wife — had been at The Greenhouse since 1987, and when we decided to move in together a larger unit was just becoming available. We bought it and we've been here ever since," said Ralph Cahn, treasurer of the Palo Alto Greenhouse Homeowners Association.

The Greenhouse's relatively large open spaces and carefully manicured lawns set it apart from other apartment and condominium complexes in the area. Many windows and patios sport planters and potted flowers. A par course, or fitness trail, encircles the complex and attracts residents from casual walkers to fitness enthusiasts.

"The grounds are kept so nice, and there is so much space to move around and enjoy the fresh air. People don't just stay inside all the time. They get out and walk the course, and talk to one another. It's just great," Fletcher said.

The complex's open space seems to invite residents outdoors, whether it is to exercise along the par course, or to walk to local shops, from Piazza's Market on Middlefield Road to Costco on Rengstorff.

"The easy access to shopping is a plus for everyone here. You see a lot of people walking and riding bicycles," Cahn added.


CHILDCARE AND PRE-SCHOOLS (NEARBY): Peninsula Day Care Center, 525 San Antonio Road

FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road

LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Palo Alto Greenhouse Homeowners Association, Ralph Cahn, treasurer, 650-858-1012; The Compass Management Group Inc., 650-563-9900

PARK (NEARBY): Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive

POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow or Hoover elementary schools, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School

SHOPPING: San Antonio Shopping Center, Charleston Plaza, Costco Warehouse

MEDIAN 2008 CONDO PRICE: $550,000 ($525,000-$688,000)


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— Alexander Papoulias

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