Gas, economy changing our lifestyle

June 18, 2008 7:14:10 PM PDT
Some experts believe the combination of a weak housing market and extraordinary gasoline prices could dramatically change the way we live.

Kymberli Brady lives in a condo in downtown San Jose and hasn't driven her car in four days.

"I walk two blocks a day to work, and if I want to meet someone for drinks or dinner, it's another two blocks or one block or even across the street."

By design, those streets also offer a plethora of public transit options.

Harry Mavrogenes, San Jose's redevelopment director, says the city's long-ago vision of urban living is finally coming to fruition.

Particularly in this era, with the rising cost of fuel, I think being close in to town is being very acceptable. Whether you call it smart growth or urban living, it is now a part of San Jose's fabric. In the last decade the city has added 6,500 residential units in the greater downtown area and now there's four new high rise projects.

Those developments are putting 900 additional units in the heart of downtown. Prices at 'The 88' start in the low $400,000 range and exceed $2 million for a penthouse.

The housing downturn doesn't worry San Francisco developer Seth Bland. His firm is confident that high density is in and suburban sprawl with long commutes is out.

"The whole sort of job, home balance already exists in downtown San Jose. It's just the smart way to live," says Bland.

The transformation is feeding on itself, more in fill living attracts more businesses and more walk to choices.

"I think San Jose has some great restaurants coming in; PF Changs, The Paulo, The Grill at the Fairmont," says resident Jesse Blount.

Kymberli Brady downsized to a condo two years ago and more and more baby boomers and young professionals are following her lifestyle choice.

"You're more comfortable, you're more relaxed and not always in such a hurry," says Brady.

City planners and developers had no idea high gas prices would eventually fuel the desire for high rises.


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