December 28, 2005

Yes, Buyers Want Mixed-Use, Smart Growth Projects

So often you hear sprawl advocates say that American homebuyers want to buy homes in suburban sprawl communities, where it's impossible to walk anywhere and the main visible neighborhood feature is huge garage door after huge garage door. And in fact, some do. But many do not; and developers who are brave enough to buck default sprawl zoning can be amply rewarded. In San Jose, Calif., for example, "the mixed-use pedestrian-friendly Santana Row complex on a former strip-mall site some three miles southwest of downtown San Jose enjoys such demand among mostly young and wealthy home buyers that the Maryland-based builder, Federal Realty Investment Trust, is selling its 219 condos at record prices of up to $525,000 for 700 square feet, $1.45 million for 2,200 square feet, and $2.5 million for 3,800 square feet, with fewer than 60 units left," according to Smart Growth News, summarizing a report in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.

The project's success "has proven out that people want to live in a community where they don't have to get in their cars all of the time," Federal Realty's chief investment officer Jeff Berkes told the business journal.

The complex includes a 214-room hotel, cinema and more than half a million square feet of high-end stores and restaurants.

One major issue: Will the success of this project hurt San Jose's downtown core, where, the business journal notes politely, "the downtown experience overall is much grittier than Santana Row."

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