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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Beautiful downtown Burbank

October 05, 2003|Steve Devol | Times Staff Writer

It's a park in name only, and magnolias can be hard to find. But Burbank's Magnolia Park lures home buyers with its shady streets, well-maintained homes dating to the 1940s, central location and a boulevard of eclectic shops that has yet to be subdued by chain stores.

Drawing card

Busy Magnolia Boulevard, between Buena Vista Street and North Hollywood, defines the neighborhood. One can easily miss the tiny signs that mark entry into Magnolia Park, but the area is recognizable by its bastion of independent businesses: the landmark Handy Market grocery, funky antiques shops, vintage clothing boutiques and Eisenhower-era storefronts.

Burbank Mayor Stacey Murphy, who calls the district home, said the city has tried to make it like Larchmont Village, that quaint mix of shops and homes in Los Angeles' Hancock Park. The result? It's "quintessential Burbank," said Dan Soderstrom, a Dilbeck GMAC real estate agent.

Good news, bad news

Permit parking on residential streets and the construction of additional parking spaces flanking the boulevard are designed to lessen the conflict between commerce and home life. But Magnolia Park still has obstacles to overcome.

"A good urban planner today would not have designed Magnolia Park the way it is," said Susan Bowers, executive director of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. "They would have designed a buffer ... between residential and commercial."

And it's a struggle for Magnolia Boulevard's independent merchants to compete in a world of big-box stores and theme-park-inspired shopping districts, Bowers said.

Location, location

With a 1950s feel that perhaps led late night TV host Johnny Carson to comment about "beautiful downtown Burbank," Magnolia Park remains a neighborhood of choice in the city. It's removed from the airport flight path, near the Ventura and Golden State freeways, and it's in the backyard of four major TV and film studios and their numerous allied companies.

Nearby recreational options include George Izay and Verdugo parks, featuring a senior center, tennis courts, a swimming pool and Burbank's cozy historical museum. Universal Studios, with its theme park and glitzy City Walk, is close by. Across the Golden State Freeway, along San Fernando Road, is Burbank Village, a shopping, dining and entertainment district with 30 movie screens.

In the works

A long-awaited enhancement of the area is on the verge of construction: By June the city is due to complete the renovation of a two-mile stretch of an unsightly, long-idled railroad right of way that runs down the center of Chandler Boulevard in Magnolia Park. It will be turned into a landscaped bikeway and pedestrian path, part of a larger bike route that will link Burbank's downtown Metrolink station with the Red Line subway in North Hollywood.

On the market

Homes are generally ranch style with two or three bedrooms. Many have been upgraded over the years. There are now nine houses on the market in the Magnolia Park area, with prices ranging from $369,000 to $739,000.

Report card

The schools are part of the Burbank Unified School District. Scores on the 2002 Academic Performance Index at the two elementary schools were 779 and 780, out of a possible score of 1,000. Jordan Middle School scored 720, and Burroughs High scored 670.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$230,000

1995...$175,000

2000...$250,000

2002...$332,000

2003*...$377,500

*year to date

Postscript

And those trees lining Magnolia Boulevard? Sorry, they're ficus. Some nice magnolias can be found, however, on nearby Pass Avenue.

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Dilbeck GMAC Real Estate, Burbank; the California Department

of Education's DataQuest; Burbank Chamber of Commerce; www.burbankca.org.

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