Historic Downtown, Top Schools in Larkspur

Downtown Larkspur
Magnolia Avenue in downtown Larkspur offers historic charm, plenty of shopping, and great restaurants.

Homebuyers are heading to Larkspur for its great weather, highly ranked schools, and historic, walkable downtown.

“It’s a beautiful town, and everything is convenient,” said Brent Thomson, a senior vice president at Pacific Union International and branch executive of our Marin County region. “It’s got a very vibrant downtown sidewalk life. There’s great restaurants, great shopping, and a great sense of community.”

Easily accessible by Highway 101, the city of 12,000 also boasts a Golden Gate Ferry station for easy commuting to San Francisco.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Larkspur welcomes a variety of festivals each year, including the Corte Madera/Larkspur Fourth of July Parade & Celebration and the Larkspur Flower and Food Festival.

Magnolia Avenue is home to the Larkspur Library, City Hall, the fire department, and an array of shops and restaurants. Emporio Rulli café and wine bar remains a popular daytime hangout, and the Silver Peso successfully combines a historic building with a dive bar vibe.

For fine dining, locals head to Left Bank brasserie, the Tavern at Lark Creek, and the much-beloved Picco. Avatar’s serves up Punjabi burritos and other Indian fusion treats in the Larkspur Plaza shopping center, also home to Lucky supermarket.

The Lark Theater offers art films, live broadcasts of political debates, and streaming of the Metropolitan Opera.

New owners have transformed the Marin Country Mart shopping center at Larkspur Landing, which is blossoming with a number of high-profile businesses including Rustic Bakery, El Huarache Loco Mexican restaurant, and Three Twins Ice Cream. The shopping center also hosts Off the Grid food truck events, children’s movie nights, and a farmers market.

An 85-unit housing development is under way at the former Niven Nursery property on Doherty Drive. As part of the developer’s agreement with Larkspur, the city will receive 2.5 acres for a community facility and park at the site.

Larkspur shares its police department and school district with the adjacent town of Corte Madera; the two municipalities are known as Marin’s Twin Cities.

In 2011 the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District received an overall Academic Performance Index score of 924 for its two schools: Neil Cummins Elementary School and Hall Middle School. Redwood High School on Doherty Drive earned a score of 899, the highest of any Marin high school. Redwood has an award-winning student newspaper, the Redwood Bark.

Larkspur’s excellent schools attract many young families to the area, but the city also remains popular with empty-nesters looking for a charming, walkable town.

The Baltimore Canyon and Palm Hill neighborhoods are among the city’s most desired locations with their historic homes and easy walks to downtown. For buyers in search of a bit more square footage, the Meadowood area tends to offer larger homes.

Maintaining the city’s character remains important to city officials, and the Heritage Preservation Board oversees historic resources, including many Victorian homes. While historic homes often require a bit of modernizing, the results can be stunning.

“Often (the older homes) need work, but it’s worth it because they have a soul and they’re special,” according to one of our top real estate professionals in Larkspur.

In September the average sale price of Larkspur single-family homes increased 38 percent to $1.03 million, up from $746,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data. During the same period, the number of Larkspur homes for sale dropped 12 percent, while homes under contract increased 160 percent over September 2011.

“Throughout Marin the market is moving rapidly, and there’s just not enough inventory to satisfy the demand from buyers,” Thomson said. “We’re still seeing multiple offers.”

 (Photo of Larkspur by Colby Palmer, via Flickr.)

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