Downtown Menlo Park “is idyllic,” said Kristen Leep, who grew up within a mile of her apartment.
Close to shopping, Caltrain, parks and the Little House Activity Center, with a mix of apartments and single-family homes, the neighborhood has something for everyone.
Soody Tronson moved to the neighborhood from Emerald Hills six years ago so her son could be closer to Menlo-Atherton High School.
“It’s much more convenient,” said the patent attorney. “I go to a lot of meetings. I don’t sit at my desk all day. It makes it really easy to get to places.”
And she loves running into neighbors at the grocery store or at the Sunday morning downtown Menlo Park Farmers' Market.
Ten years ago, Ms. Leep returned from two years in New York. “I was done. I didn’t find my community in New York. I came back and immediately found friends,” through her church and Spinsters, a San Francisco-based social and philanthropic organization.
An elementary school teacher, Ms. Leep has reconnected with many old friends from high school days and she serves on the Menlo Park Library Commission.
“On Sunday morning I walk to the Farmers' Market, then pick up things at Trader Joe’s. It’s a beautiful encapsulation of suburban life,” she said.
Her only issue is the constantly rising prices of housing, with her rent about double what she paid 10 years ago.
“Houses are getting bigger, there’s a lot of remodeling,” she said. But the good news is “downtown Menlo Park is getting livelier. … The original intent was that Menlo Park was a place to buy furniture, which led to a super dull downtown. Now there are restaurants, ice cream, clothing, shoes.”
Not all that’s new is appreciated by everyone. Ms. Tronson regrets when the empty storefronts on Santa Cruz Avenue are filled by chain stores, rather than locally owned businesses.
And she’d like to see more diversity, not just racially but culturally, with a greater variety of small businesses downtown, “but prices are going to stand in the way,” she said.
On the plus side are her neighbors, some of whom dropped off cookies when she moved in. “It is a friendly neighborhood in general,” she said.
Ms. Tronson serves on Menlo Park’s Finance and Audit Committee, which did not require expertise in finance. Instead, she says, they were looking for logic, attention to detail and an understanding of the bigger picture and she was simply looking for a way to give back to her community.
-- Carol Blitzer, 2017
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Kirk House Preschool, 1148 Johnson St., Menlo Park; Menlo-Atherton Cooperative Nursery School, 802 Middle Ave., Menlo Park
FIRE STATION: 700 Oak Grove Ave., Menlo Park (new station scheduled to open in spring 2018)
LOCATION: between El Camino Real and Johnson Street and Arbor Road, from Valparaiso Avenue to Middle Avenue
PARKS: Fremont Park, Santa Cruz Avenue and University Drive; Jack W. Lyle Park, Middle Avenue at Fremont Street; Nealon Park, 800 Middle Ave., Menlo Park
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Menlo Park City School District -- Encinal Elementary School, 195 Encinal Ave., Atherton; Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Ave., Menlo Park. Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Lydian Academy, 815 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; Menlo School, 50 Valparaiso Ave., Atherton; Sacred Heart Schools, 150 Valparaiso Ave., Atherton
SHOPPING: Downtown Menlo Park, Stanford Shopping Center