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In the last decade, Downtown San Diego has become the place to live for upscale singles and couples. Pedestrian-friendly Downtown is attracting all sorts of new residents, eager to take advantage of the fine dining, cultural opportunities, and high energy. Many professionals who work Downtown have decided to reside here, as well, to avoid commuting on congested freeways with sky-high gas prices. The community also is attracting “empty nester” retirees. “It was never popular with families,” says one long-time downtown resident, “because of the shortage of schools.”

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.

But that was not always so. Some San Diego women remember going Downtown as children in the late 1950s and early 1960s wearing their Sunday finest, even little white gloves. That was expected of people, because thriving downtown was where everyone went to shop in the major department stores, to eat at the better restaurants, and to watch the latest movies in the plush theaters. That began to change later in the 1960s when malls in the suburbs began to spring up and people started abandoning downtown. There was always a seedy section of Downtown because of its proximity to the harbor, but the entire area went into decline.

Downtown was, well, down…but not out. There was a change in the air 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 revamping the Gaslamp Quarter — 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 Meridian luxury condominiums and the now world-renowned Horton Plaza shopping center in the mid-1980s.

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 downtown and new construction is constant. With the development of Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres baseball team, livable space continues to grow eastward. This area is known as the East Village. Another popular residential area is charming Little Italy, on the west side of Downtown.

For the ultimate in luxury, note the penthouse pictured here. It took 50 artisans more than 47,000 hours to create Palazzo de Cielo, or palace in the sky. With glorious views from almost every room, the penthouse, located in the Renaissance building, has 4,400 square feet of interior space plus 1,500 square feet of garden terrace. The pride in craftsmanship of this home is like taking a step back in time. Prudential California Realty’s Paul Roberts in association with Gregg and Debbie Neuman have this $10 million dollar listing.

For more information on this listing, go to web #129856.

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