by Elena Kadvany
Midtown Palo Alto is a place where people come to stay.
Paulmer Soderberg has lived in his house on Vernon Terrace since 1991, when he bought the house with his wife the same month they got married.
"It was just dumb luck that we moved to Palo Alto," he said. "In hindsight, it was a pretty nice decision."
The two started a family there, raising their two sons. Soderberg said with so many families living on the street, his children are what got him and his wife to know their neighbors. The result is a close-knit, comfortable neighborhood community.
"We take care of (other) kids every once and awhile or the kids kind of just walk out the door and say, 'I'm going to go down to Jack's,' and that kind of stuff," he said.
Vernon Terrace residents also go all out for Halloween, with everyone on the horse-shoe shaped street participating. The Soderbergs do a haunted house; another neighbor replicates Area 51.
Soderberg said when he first moved to Palo Alto, "Everyone else thought North Palo Alto was the place to be," but he and his wife preferred Midtown.
"... I really like Midtown because it seems more family-oriented. It's a more cozy, quaint neighborhood."
Soderberg said he also appreciates being close to so many amenities and facilities. His sons, in particular, love the Midtown location of Sancho's Taqueria on Middlefield Road and Subway, also on Middlefield. Soderberg said he thinks Piazza's Fine Food in the Charleston Shopping Center is great.
Another Midtown resident, Dan Melick, who has lived in the same Colorado Avenue house since 1976, said he also likes the convenience of Midtown.
"We like this area because it's friendly, it's very close to the Midtown shopping area," he said. "That's really nice. We have our bank there; we have Safeway there; you have two pharmacies (and) a shoemaker there that's been there forever."
He's also within walking distance of Caltrain.
However, Melick remembers when there used to be far more amenities in the neighborhood.
"We've seen gas stations disappear; there used to be several in Midtown. Now there's none," he said.
He remembers a bank that's now a Starbucks, a grocery store that's now a pharmacy and an auto parts store that's now gone.
Melick is also part of a strong emergency preparedness presence in Midtown. He's a member of the neighborhood's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which is in place in case first responders such as police and firefighters can't handle all emergencies in the case of a natural disaster or hazard. Melick is one of many CERT volunteers in Midtown who are trained in basic disaster-response skill such as fire safety, light search-and-rescue and disaster medical operations.
"It's a way of supporting the community," Melick said.
This and many other elements make Midtown a neighborhood where people put down roots.
"We actually did an addition (to the house) because we plan to stay here through retirement," Soderberg said. "There's no reason to leave."
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CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Grace Lutheran Preschool, 3149 Waverley St.; Love'n'Care Christian Preschool, 2490 Middlefield Road; Mini Infant Center of Palo Alto, 3149 Waverley St.; Ohlone Kids' Club (PACCC), 950 Amarillo Ave.; Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, 957 Colorado Ave.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: between Oregon Expressway and Loma Verde Avenue, Alma Street and West Bayshore Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Sheri Furman, 650-856-0869, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.midtownresidents.org
PARKS: Greer Park, 1098 Amarillo Ave.; Hoover Park, 2901 Cowper St.; Seale Park, 3100 Stockton Place
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Keys School, 2890 Middlefield Road; HeadsUp! Emerson School, 2800 W. Bayshore Road; The Girls' Middle School, 3400 W. Bayshore Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: El Carmelo, Fairmeadow, Hoover, Ohlone and Palo Verde elementary schools; J. L. Stanford Middle School; Gunn or Palo Alto high schools
SHOPPING: Midtown Shopping Center, Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue; also Middlefield Road at Loma Verde Avenue