Downtown San Diego at a Glance
  • Population: 25,000
  • Median price condo: $447,300
        (2008)
  • Median price luxury condo: $1,135,000
  • Land area in square miles: 5.8
  • Residents per square mile: 4,714
  • Solds: 646 (2008)

  • The Lights are Much Brighter There
    "When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go... downtown." When Petula Clark was singing that hit song in the 1960s, she sure wasn't talking about Downtown San Diego. It was quite seedy back then — full of tattoo shops, adult bookstores, and other evidence of a downtown in decline. Downtown had thrived in earlier decades. People went there to shop in the department stores, eat at the better restaurants, watch movies in the plush theaters. But as malls began to spring up, many people abandoned downtown.

    Downtown was, well, down... but not out. Things began to change in the mid 1970s when the city applied for and was granted redevelopment status of its 1,500 acres. That means it got tax increment financing, which fosters more development. Projects such as the Gaslamp Quarter — in which eight blocks of Victorian-style buildings constructed between 1873 and 1930 — got underway. Building by building, each was restored to its former glory. The real catalyst, however, for turning Downtown into not just a destination but a residential community, as well, occurred with the building of the Meridan luxury condominiums and the now world-renowned Horton Plaza shopping center in the mid-1980s, according to a local Realtor who specializes in Downtown properties.

    Nowadays, if you walk down Fifth Avenue on a Friday night, you'll find the sidewalks packed with local revelers and diners plus conventioneers and tourists from around the country and the world. The atmosphere is as giddy and exciting as it is in New York's Times Square.

    And in the last few years, Downtown has become the place to live for upscale singles and couples.

    Who is Moving Here?
    Pedestrian-friendly Downtown is attracting all sorts of new residents, eager to take advantage of more fine-dining establishments than in any other part of the county, the cultural opportunities, and the high energy. Many professionals who work Downtown have decided to reside here, as well, to avoid commuting on congested freeways. The community is also attracting "empty nester" retirees. "It was never popular with families," says the Realtor, "because of the unavailability of schools." But that trend is starting to change in the community's charming Little Italy on the west side of Downtown because there are now two schools in the neighborhood - one private, one public. These families typically reside in the low-rises that have been built there in recent years, though high-rises are starting to appear in the area, as well.
    Housing Styles
    The population is currently about 25,000, but that is expected to double to 50,000 in the next 25 years. And builders are prepared. The luxurious high-rise condo is king and many residents have spectacular views. New construction continues. Some of the most prominent already-existing projects are The Grand, Horizon, CityFront Terrace, Park Loft, and The Harbor Club. The El Cortez - once both San Diego's grandest hotel and the tallest building in the city - was renovated extensively and turned into condos. The 85-unit, 18-story project was completed in mid-2004 and by early 2005 the El Cortez was completely sold out.
    Downtown San Diego House Prices
    The median-price for a Downtown condo is currently $447,300. There are penthouses available up to $10,000,000. The median price for a luxury condo is $1,135,000. Please note that our "Home Price Points" are based on the luxury market.
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    Story by Jacqueline Shannon
    Photography by Latara Dragoo

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