Downtown North | January 6, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - January 6, 2012

Downtown North

Eclectic architecture and easy access to University Avenue

by Yichuan Cao

A stone's throw away from Stanford University, Downtown North used to be populated by mostly single graduate students and professionals, according to Lee Lippert, a long-time resident. Since the Lipperts moved in, they have witnessed an influx of families.

"I have seen more housing being built, forming a mix of small houses, arts-and-crafts homes, small garden apartments and double duplexes in this neighborhood," he said.

Lippert, an architect who served on Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board, first moved into an apartment with his wife in 1983 and later moved to a house on Hawthorne Avenue. Beginning in the 1980s, he witnessed how his neighborhood, situated at the northernmost part of the city, has undergone many changes that reflect both the economic and demographic transitions that have taken place with the rise of Silicon Valley.

"The Peninsula Times Tribune went out of business in the early 1990s," Lippert pointed out, and the city block that faced Lytton Avenue was developed as both commercial and residential property. It was a loss to the news industry, but according to Lippert there were many gains for the neighborhood. He counts the introduction of traffic circles and turn restrictions in 2005 among recent improvements.

"A lot of cut-through traffic went pass our neighborhood before the traffic-calming measure was enforced," he said. "The streets then were like a highway and it was very unsafe, especially for young children."

Since the implementation of these traffic-restriction measures, the residential part of Downtown North became much quieter and pedestrian-friendly. Though parking on University Avenue remains a headache for some, Lippert finds Downtown North offers easy access to almost everything.

"I moved to this neighborhood because it was just a 10-minute walk to my office, and my projects were usually within half-a-mile radius, very easy to walk or bike to," Lippert said. Before he moved to Palo Alto, Lippert used to commute to work by train from Connecticut to New York City.

"Caltrain station, supermarket, restaurant and the San Francisquito Creek are all within walking or bicycle distance," he said. "The only inconvenience is that there's no gas station here now and I need to go to Menlo Park for gas, but, on second thought, I consider this a great thing."

Newcomers to the neighborhood are also drawn to the conveniences. Trina Currier, who has lived in Downtown North since 2008, said she really enjoys the proximity of restaurants and shops on University Avenue, and, for her kids, Johnson Park. And Jacqueline Damsdale, who just moved into the neighborhood in November 2011, enjoys taking her kids to the park.

The area where Johnson Park is now used to be houses, but the city redeveloped the area into a public open space for the densely populated Downtown North. Johnson Park is now at the center of social life. It becomes a place where neighbors get to know each other "just by walking around," Currier said.

"It is a major asset of the community," Lippert said. "It's always full of kids, seniors, and I used to walk the dogs in the evenings to Johnson Park, through the downtown area and back home. It's the place that has brought the community here together."

The ties among people are strong. Friday afternoons, neighbors visit each other and join each other's parties. "Sometimes, people invite each other to dinners," Damsdale said. Living in Downtown North makes her and her family — even though they are new faces in the neighborhood — feel warm and friendly.

"We look out for each other, especially when someone's sick," Currier said. "It's a nice camaraderie here."


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CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (and nearby): Discovery Children's House — Montessori, 437 Webster St.; Downtown Children's Center, 555 Waverley St.; First School, 625 Hamilton Ave.

FIRE STATION: No. 1, 301 Alma St.

LIBRARY: Downtown branch, 270 Forest Ave.

LOCATION: between San Francisquito Creek and University Avenue, Alma Street and Middlefield Road

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Sally Ann Rudd,; Tricia Ward-Dolkas, neighborhood preparedness coordinator,

PARKS: Cogswell Plaza, Lytton Avenue between Ramona and Bryant streets; El Camino Park, 100 El Camino Real; El Palo Alto Park, Alma Street at El Camino Real; Hopkins Creekside Park, Palo Alto Avenue from El Camino Real to Middlefield Road; Johnson Park, Everett Avenue and Waverley Street

POST OFFICE: Hamilton, 380 Hamilton Ave.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Addison Elementary School, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School

SHOPPING: University Avenue, Stanford Shopping Center


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