Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Resource Center

SCAG Region: Compass Blueprint Case Study Downtown Fullerton

This case study examines Fullerton’s efforts to revitalize the downtown by capitalizing on the district’s transit accessibility and rich legacy of historic buildings.

Downtown Fullerton

Fullerton is a city in north Orange County, just north of Anaheim and other major employment centers and destinations. The community began as a railroad town, and its historic downtown evolved around the City’s train station. In the last several years, downtown Fullerton has become a hot spot of activity, accommodating many restaurants, new housing, and stores. This case study examines the City’s efforts over the last two decades to revitalize the downtown by capitalizing on the district’s transit accessibility and rich legacy of historic buildings.

Local Context

The City of Fullerton began as a railroad town, named after the agent of the Santa Fe Railroad Company who purchased the right-of-way for a new railroad that would run through the city. Fullerton’s economy boomed through most of the 20th century, fueled by food packing, oil fields, aviation and, following World War II, massive housing construction for returning veterans and their families.

The City’s downtown sprang up around the Santa Fe Railroad Depot, which remains an important landmark and transportation hub. The station is now served by Metrolink and Amtrak trains, and is the busiest Metrolink station in Orange County. In addition, the station serves as a hub for Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) buses. These transit options allow residents to commute to and from Los Angeles, Irvine, and even San Diego. I-5, SR-91, and SR-57, as well as Harbor Boulevard, a major regional arterial that runs through the center of the downtown, further reinforce Fullerton’s accessibility.

Fullerton’s older housing stock, much of which was built in the decades following World War II, makes the City more affordable than many in Orange County. The City’s median income in 2006 was $62,124, significantly less than the County median of $70,232. However, incomes and housing prices are rising throughout Orange County, driving middle-income workers to live further inland and commute long distances. Fullerton has taken advantage of these trends as it has revitalized its downtown, building multi-family, infill development to attract young couples and seniors who might otherwise be priced out of the area, and drawing visitors from across the increasingly well-off region to its many restaurants and nightclubs.