One of the city’s oldest neighborhood’s, Downtown Palo Alto sprang to life during the construction of Stanford University in the 1890s, partially due to workers, faculty, and administrators who worked to build the university, and ate, slept, and shopped in Downtown. Previously, this area was designated a “dry” spot and no alcohol was served, a condition imposed by Leland Stanford for establishing his university – that is no longer the case.
The juxtaposition of residential, commercial, and retail structures that formed in the early days of Stanford University remains today. It’s this “urban-like” environment that gives Downtown its character and attracts residents. Today, the area offers everything from retail shops, office spaces, condo complexes, and commercial structures. Indeed, University Avenue, the artery of Downtown Palo Alto, is one of the liveliest streets in Silicon Valley. A plethora of shops, restaurants, bars, offices, a theater, and a park plaza lie side-by-side on an 11-block stretch.
Among all of Palo Alto neighborhoods, Downtown has the highest concentration of condominium units. In 2013, 47 condo units were sold, with an average price of $1,200,906. This included multi-level townhouses with direct street access. Traditional houses, on the other hand, are smaller compared to other areas of Palo Alto. Built primarily for workers, during Stanford’s early years, these homes were designed as bungalows, and had properties that sat close to the neighbors and sidewalks. The average lot size is about 5,300 square feet. Even with all of the remodeling and rebuilding projects going on throughout the last 10 years, the smaller lots keep the house size to around 1,700 square feet.
One downside to a Downtown location is parking. With all of the offices and retail establishments in the area, the City has had to enforce a four-color parking zone. A car can only be parked for a maximum of two hours, per zone, per day. If parking past the limit, the car must be moved to a different color zone. As a result, many park their cars in front of homes and surrounding streets, leaving residents to forage for parking.
Despite this, the centrality of Downtown is unbeatable. Prime access to fine dining, shopping, and local businesses make this area well worth the investment.