Sunnyvale

Located in the center of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale is a place whose aptitude for change is hard to miss. This city of 140,000 has spent the 21st-century looking toward the future, welcoming tech giants Yahoo and Ariba, while acknowledging the importance of its past by expanding and revitalizing its historic downtown. Make no mistake: Sunnyvale is a thoroughly modern city, but its roots run deep.

Those roots are on full display at the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum, a mile from downtown on the site of city pioneer Martin Murphy’s 19th-century ranch, and closer to downtown, where a water tower, painted to resemble a circa 1930 Libby’s fruit cocktail can, looms over California Avenue, the site of the old Libby, McNeil and Libby cannery. The historic Del Monte Building, another reminder of a time when agriculture ruled the local economy, is also downtown, restored and available for corporate and private event rentals.

Today’s Sunnyvale is a bustling place of lively residential neighborhoods and well-regarded public schools that lies atop the bestplaces.net lists of “Healthiest Cities” and “Best Places to Telework.” It’s decades past its transformation from sleepy farm town to technology powerhouse. Sunnyvale is also among the more affordable of Silicon Valley cities, boasting homes comparable to those found in Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto that sell for far less than they would in those places.

Sunnyvale was a small, sleepy town until after World War II. Much of its growth took place over a relatively short time period, but that doesn’t mean it’s a city of identical housing tracts. For example, there are 16 separate developments by mid-century builder Joseph Eichler, built in a 25-year period beginning in the late 1940s, in Sunnyvale. In all, there are over 1,100 Eichler homes in Sunnyvale.

Of late, Sunnyvale has also turned its housing attention toward its historic downtown, adding apartment and condominium buildings on the site of the former Sunnyvale Town Center mall. The Solstice Apartments, Sunnyvale’s newest apartment community, is just two blocks from Murphy Avenue and the heart of downtown. A mixed-use building with shops and restaurants at street level, Solstice has a WalkScore of 88, making it a “walker’s paradise” on a par with neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Sunnyvale is at heart a suburban community, with 1960s-style residential neighborhoods, parks and shopping centers, but its recent re-emphasizing of its downtown gives residents more shopping, dining and strolling options. Murphy Avenue between East Washington and East Evelyn Avenues is tree-lined and chock full of interesting shops, casual and fine dining restaurants and night spots. Sunnyvale’s mild weather makes outdoor dining a must, and the Downtown Business Improvement District hosts numerous events annually, including a year-round downtown farmers’ market, two summer music series’ and a yearly Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Near downtown is the Heritage District, several blocks of historic homes dating back to Sunnyvale’s agricultural days. Further north, at the Sunnyvale-Mountain View border, is Moffet Federal Airfield and NASA’s Ames Research Center, two reminders of the important role Sunnyvale played during World War II and the Cold War. One North Sunnyvale neighborhood, Victory Village, was created during World War II specifically to house workers stationed at the airfield during the war.

Defense and aerospace are still significant industries in Sunnyvale, almost as important to the city’s economic health as tech. Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and Northrup Grumman all have facilities there. And yet it’s technology that’s captured the imagination of the region, if not the world. To some, Sunnyvale is Yahoo; its status as the home of one of the most important tech companies in the world is enough. To many others, Sunnyvale is much more; it’s a growing, thriving city able to live in the present, look forward and into the past, but more than that, it’s home.