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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Fullerton's reinvigorated core

Downtown Fullerton was a shell of its original self just two decades ago. But after years of revitalization, the 80-acre residential and commercial core is the bustling heart of this 116-year-old city. The downtown area seamlessly combines century-old buildings and California bungalows with luxury apartments, martini bars and gourmet coffee shops.

September 28, 2003|Julie Bawden Davis | Special to The Times

Drawing card

Rather than tear down historic buildings in disuse, city planners chose to restore Fullerton's downtown, converting existing historic buildings into mixed-use space. The hard work and attention to detail has resulted in a self-contained community rich in history and full of modern conveniences.

Hot spots

Popular eateries such as Heroes, the Rockin' Taco Cantina and Steamer's Cafe, which has live jazz daily, give the area a vibrant, urban feel.

SoCo (the area south of Commonwealth Avenue, off Harbor Boulevard) is an artsy section of downtown with a number of restaurants, as well as such buildings as the garage where Leo Fender, creator of the Fender guitar, opened his first shop in 1938. The Santa Fe Depot dates to 1888 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Good news, bad news

Though downtown Fullerton has undergone major renovation in recent years and the nightlife is bustling, a large eyesore remains. The Fox Theatre on Harbor Boulevard has been abandoned for years. The historic theater, in need of costly repair, was built in 1924-'25.

Limited parking is another issue downtown, especially during the busy dinner hour as customers patronize the more than 40 restaurants. On Thursday afternoons and on evenings during daylight saving time, the Farmers Market draws crowds and can cause gridlock.

Stock report

Single-family homes are sprinkled throughout downtown. Many are three-bedroom, one-bathroom California bungalows of about 1,000 square feet. There are 185 apartment units. Two luxury apartment complexes under construction are expected to provide nearly 400 more units.

On the market

In mid-September, the two homes on the market in the downtown area were priced at $450,000 and $475,000.

Report card

While there are no public schools downtown, there are several nearby. The Fullerton School District's elementary and middle schools had a base score of 720, out of 1,000, on the 2002 Academic Performance Index. At the high school level, it was 678.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$180,000

1995...$150,000

2000...$210,000

2002...$276,000

2003*...$320,000

*year to date

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Kay Miller, economic development department, city of Fullerton; Michael Ritto, president of the Fullerton Downtown Business Assn.; Winkelmann Realty, downtown Fullerton; www.ci.fullerton.ca.us; www.fullertonheritage.org.

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