Creative redevelopments change face of downtown


New and creative redevelopment programs are emerging in the downtown areas of cities across the nation.

These developments include new condominiums for low-income families and luxury town houses for more affluent couples or families. Most of the developments include specialty shops and other commercial units.

Larimar Square in Denver, for example, became a popular downtown section where residents and tourists shop at unique stores and shops and where yuppies live in classy town houses. Before the area was redeveloped, it had become what appeared to be a hopeless skid row.

In Des Moines, Iowa, the old, deteriorated part of the downtown area next to the county courthouse and railroad tracks has taken on new life. It has become a popular community entertainment and activity center. New restaurants now operate in renovated buildings. And it's the site of frequent sidewalk community fairs.

An example of a progressive downtown area redevelopment plan now under construction can be seen in the city of Thousand Oaks, Calif., north of Los Angeles. A $63.8 million Civic Arts Plaza redevelopment project is being built on a 20-acre site.

When completed, the project will offer something for everyone. A handsome 1,800-seat Civic Auditorium will bring music groups and other performances to the area.

"We're just far enough away from the performance facilities in Los Angeles to be free from the non-compete agreements signed by many performing groups," said Ed Johnduff, Thousand Oaks project manager. "This gives us an excellent selection of top entertainers."

The auditorium building will include community meeting rooms, conference rooms and a large multi-purpose room.

It also will include the new government center facilities for Thousand Oaks, and a 388-seat Council Chamber/Forum Theater.

For a welcome change of pace, nature-loving visitors might stroll along paths in the 7-acre park included in the site plan, or peruse one of many art exhibits to be featured.

The development is a giant leap into the future from the days when the site was known as Goebel's Wild Animal Park. Many area families and tourists remember this as a place where the kids (and adults) enjoyed watching trained animals perform for them.

The site, later known as Jungleland, was purchased by an investor in 1969. He proposed a shopping center development on the site in the mid-1980s. But many community leaders felt the downtown area was strategically located for a key public complex and pushed for that type of usage. The land was acquired by the city's Redevelopment Agency and the development process was under way.

Question: Are home sales increasing or decreasing in most areas of the country?

Answer: Sales have been increasing in most areas. During the second quarter of this year, sales of existing (previously owned) homes increased to the highest level in more than three years, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Significant increases in home sales were reported in 30 states. Twelve of those states reported double-digit increases compared to the same period last year.

Q. In what areas are the highest and lowest home prices?

A. Honolulu has the dubious distinction of having the highest home prices, with a median price of $339,500 for an existing single-family home. The lowest median home price is in Waterloo, Iowa -- $46,200.

Questions may be used in future columns; personal responses should not be expected. Send inquiries to James M. Woodard, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190.

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