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Orange County’s New Pioneers

Times Staff Writer

The granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and massive saltwater swimming pool had her intrigued. And when Judy Williams saw the $469,000 sales price and the convenience of being able to pop downstairs for a margarita or stroll across the street to an Angels’ baseball game, city life started looking a lot better than suburbia.

“It’s all right here,” said Williams, 56, a teacher from Anaheim Hills. “Once we’re home, we don’t have to go out again.”

Maybe the only thing that bothered Williams about Stadium Lofts, the Platinum Triangle’s first condominium complex, was the name of her favorite unit’s floor plan, Candlestick, the San Francisco Giants’ old stadium.

“I’d have a tough time living in Candlestick,” said Williams, an Angels’ season ticket holder.

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“Maybe I could rename it ‘Junior Angels.’ ”

After touring the models this week during their lunch hour, Williams and her husband, Bob, said they were considering trading in their house for two condos -- one for themselves and one for their 22-year-old son.

Ninety singles and families have already plopped down $10,000 deposits to live in the 390-unit, four-story development that is set to open in January at Katella Avenue and State College Boulevard in Anaheim.

The complex sits within minutes of Angel Stadium, Arrowhead Pond and the site of a proposed professional football stadium. And it is across the street from the site of A-Town, the Platinum Triangle’s centerpiece neighborhood. Anaheim hopes the Platinum Triangle, which will be filled with high-rise condos, shops and restaurants, will become Orange County’s downtown.

It’s early, but people appear to be buying into the concept of an urban Orange County lifestyle. Minutes after the first 40 units were put on the market, Lofts’ officials had offers for them all -- and then some. Since the models opened three weeks ago, about 2,000 people have given them a look.

“All eyes are on us because we’re the first [Platinum Triangle] place on the market,” said Todd Bousman, the Lofts’ sales manager. “So far, I’d say it’s going extremely well.”

The condos have been attracting all types of buyers: first-timers, retirees, Inland Empire residents yearning to be closer to the beach and homeowners tired of yardwork.

Danielle Gomez and Nick Elms, both 21, fit into the first category. The engaged couple had been looking for a small house or condo in north Orange County for months. Unable to find the right neighborhood or price, they began looking in Corona, just over the Riverside County line.

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Then, on their way to an Angels’ game one night, Gomez and Elms noticed a clay-colored complex with restaurants and a coffeehouse on the ground floor and condos above. The next day, they toured the grounds and were immediately sold on a Stadium Lofts’ one-bedroom.

“I had never seen that kind of urban living anywhere in Orange County,” Gomez said. “It reminded us of big-city living, like I’ve seen in New York or San Francisco.”

Gomez, who works at a women’s clothing store in Irvine, said she and Elms, an Anaheim city employee, had reservations about staking their savings on a neighborhood of cranes, bulldozers and dusty vacant lots. The next Platinum Triangle project is not expected to be completed for at least a year.

“We were a little scared,” she said. “It’s a big chunk of money.”

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But a few weeks after committing $10,000 toward their $335,000 loft, the couple learned that a similar unit in the next stage was selling for $348,000.

“That made us feel a little more at ease,” she said.

“Like we made the right decision.”

Allen Gradous used his lunch hour at nearby Hewlett-Packard to check out the four model units, which range from 650 to 1,000 square feet, and the common areas, which include a fitness center, television and game rooms and a conference center.

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Gradous, who owns a three-bedroom house in Santa Ana, has been eyeing the Lofts since construction began last year. “I’ve been looking for something with less upkeep, with no lawn to mow,” he said.

“I’m a little worried about the housing bubble bursting. But there’s so much momentum here, I’m a little less concerned about it affecting the Platinum Triangle.”

Gradous, who is 47 and single, said he was looking forward to the social aspects of living in an urban environment. “I’m interested in meeting new people,” he said. “My only concern is that, if it’s all twentysomethings, I might not fit in.”

Anaheim firefighter Mike Houghton, 24, will be one of those twentysomethings. Houghton, who lives with his parents in Yorba Linda, bought a one-bedroom overlooking one of the complex’s four courtyards for $379,000.

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“I’ll be able to jog to my fire station,” he said.

“I can walk downstairs to the bar and the gym. I’m stoked. I’ve spent my time in the suburbs. I’m into the whole high-rise So Cal kind of living.”

And Houghton figures other So Cals will be too.

“I know high-rises have always been an East Coast thing,” he said. “But I think this style of living will catch on. People are really into convenience of everything. It’s a bit of a financial gamble, but it’s nice to be in on the ground floor.”

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