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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

In Tustin, an enclave with Main Street appeal

June 08, 2003|Julie Bawden Davis | Special to The Times

Amid the urban sprawl just off the Santa Ana Freeway in west Tustin are several blocks of homes and businesses known as Old Town. This village of 900 homes from the 1880s to the 1950s mixes the old with the new in a patchwork community reminiscent of bygone days.

Drawing card

Quiet tree-lined streets, beautiful old homes and a variety of historic commercial buildings, including eclectic restaurants, a dinner theater, tea houses, gift stores, art galleries and flower shops, make this both a place to live and one to visit. Redevelopment efforts by the city of Tustin have brought improvements while retaining the historic charm. A recently completed $1-million street-scaping project blends the old with the new, adding diagonal parking, which was common years ago.

Wow factor

Like many small towns, Old Town Tustin has a Main Street. Picture-perfect homes and well-maintained office buildings from the turn of the 20th century line this thoroughfare. One such home is the Hewes mansion, a Victorian built by David Hewes, a builder who was instrumental in creating San Francisco and who moved to Tustin in 1881.

Many businesses occupy historic buildings, including the 200-year-old Queen Anne Victorian in the Steven's Square Business Park. A farmers market draws crowds every Wednesday.

Good news, bad news

While the area is coming into its own as a quaint destination village, it is not widely known in Southern California. Some properties remain undeveloped, and the vacant lots scattered throughout the community give a somewhat disjointed feeling.

Insider's View

Despite high demand for homes, prices are reasonable compared to other parts of Orange County. "Old Town's demographics are changing," said Dave Lavin, real estate broker with Seven Gables Real Estate in Tustin. "Over the last 10 years the houses have gotten older and the occupants younger."

On the market

At the end of May there were five homes on the market in Old Town, including a 900-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath house for $329,000 and a 1950 three-bedroom, 1 3/4 bath, 1,600-square-foot house for $459,900.

Hot spots

Homes in this quiet enclave span a variety of architectural styles including Colonial, Victorian Italianate and Victorian Queen Anne, Craftsman and Monterey Revival. Those along Main Street and adjacent A, B and C streets are particularly eye-catching.

A two-bedroom, one-bath, 900-square-foot home costs from $300,000 to $320,000, while a 2,200-square-foot Spanish Colonial Revival home with three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths will run $690,000.

On the high end, expect to pay $1.2 million for a four-bedroom, 2 1/2 baths, 4,000-square-foot Queen Anne Victorian on a 16,000- to 20,000-square-foot lot.

At the one development of new tract homes in Old Tustin, prices range from $400,000 to $500,000 for homes with three or four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths in 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

Report card

Schools serving Old Town and neighboring communities are part of the Tustin Unified School District. Many students attend Columbus Tustin Middle School, which scored 674 out of 1,000 on the 2002 California Academic Performance Index. Tustin High School, which also draws many Old Town residents, earned 631 on the 2002 API.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$225,000

1995...$180,000

2000...$249,000

2001...$285,000

2003*...$325,000

*year to date

Sources: www.tustinca.org; Greatschools.net; DataQuick Information Services; Seven Gables Real Estate; Old Town Gallery; Tustin Old Town Assn.; Tustin Business Assn.

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