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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gay Enclaves Face Prospect of Being Passé--Huh?

The New York Times reported it so it must be true: Gay Enclaves Face Prospect of Being Passe`. CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

The article's author, Patricia Leigh Brown, says"These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification." She talks about the change of character of San Francisco's Castro Area and how that mirrors the destruction of gay neighborhoods. The article then mentions Don F. Reuter, a New York author who is researching a book on the rise and fall of gay neighborhoods, or “gayborhoods.” He says “The Castro, and to a lesser extent the West Village, was where you went to express yourself.” “Claiming physical territory was a powerful act. But the gay neighborhood is becoming a past-tense idea.”

Poppycock. I was in San Francisco two weeks ago and the Castro was a gay as gay can be. I was in the Folsom area and it was gay can be. The department stores around Union Square were filled with gay sales clerks and gay shoppers. There was a sea of gay men. Ms. Brown specifically referred to the Castro Street Halloween celebration back in 1979. I was there on Halloween Night in 1979. The next night I was part of the filming of the finale of the movie CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC. That was 28 years ago. What a glorious time we all had.

In the article Ms. Brown mentions straight people walking down Castro Street today as if they were reclaiming space. Poppycock again. Gay enclaves don't mean straights are not allowed. There are, if anything, more gay stores today on Castro Street than there were 28 years ago.

As for Key West's mention in the article as being a part of these "wrenching times" of "population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging" and "the struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification" she has a bit of a point. I have lived in Key West for almost 15 years and have noticed that a lot of gay people have moved from Key West either because it does not offer them what they want in gay life or that the town has become too expensive. But every year there is a brand new bunch of gay men and women who move here for a variety of reasons including the openness and inviting atmosphere of this small little island where people are free to be who they want to be.

Key West today is certainly more gentrified than it was when I first came here as a visitor over 20 years ago. You can't stop the music and you can't stop progress. But you can pick the place you want to live and how you want to live your life. If you are gay and want to live a closeted cloistered life and deny your feelings you can live anywhere. If you want to live an open and free lifestyle your options are more limited. Like a lot limited. Key West, like San Francisco, is one of the places where it is okay to be gay. And I don't think there is a snowball's chance in hell that Key West is on the way to becoming passe`.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

This is a very dramatic yet comfortable home set in a tranquil and private garden in the Casa Marina Area. The Von Phister Street house, designed by architect Matthew Fowler and built in 2000, has a soaring two-story living space with a wall of glass overlooking the heated swimming pool. There are multiple outdoor living spaces in the lush grounds planned by landscape designer Carl Gilley. There is a gleaming state of the art kitchen with separate butler's pantry. the master bedroom has generous closet space and a wonderful bath which passes through to a tropical outdoor shower. Floors are Egyptian limestone and bamboo. This property is being offered furnished with pieces especially chosen for this home.

The 2014 sq ft house has 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and sits on a 4488 sq ft lot. It is offered at the price of $1,595,000 or $792 per sq ft. Not a bad price. I know the house and area well since it is across the street from where I live. As I have so often mentioned the location of a house has a big impact on its value. This house is in a very good, quite area with most of the surrounding homes being of equal or higher value. CLICK HERE for more details and photos of the house.

This house is different from many Key West homes because of its avant garde architecture. It is not the typical Key West conch house at all. Instead, it is a very dramatic modern interpretation on island living. The major living areas open onto or look onto the front garden or the rear pool area. Like many Key West homes, the living area opens directly onto the pool area so it seems as though the livingroom extends to the outside. This is the kind of home empty nestor's or a gay couple would find very inviting. It has everyday utility for a couple with the extra living space that can double as guest quarters when the occasion warrants.

Give me a call at 305-766-2642 and let me show you this lovely Casa Marina Area home. Won't you be my neighbor?

CLICK HERE to preview all other Key West mls listings.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Georgia On My Mind--Key West Version

Folks who are familiar with Key West know that it has many unique neighborhoods. The Meadows area is one of those. It is located just east of Old Town and is bounded by U.S. Navy housing to the north, the Garrison Bight Marina to the east, and Truman Avenue to the south. The area is primarily made up of traditional cigar maker cottages, eyebrow houses, two story conch homes, and there is a smattering of buildings that have been condominiumized or made into apartments. There is no commercial activity in the interior parts of The Meadows, but there are commercial operations on the perimeter. I estimate that about 80% of the homes have been renovated at least once during the past 20 years. Unlike Old Town, most of the homes here are owner occupied. The streets tend to be more narrow than the streets in Old Town, so most are one way. (The exception is Georgia Street that is extra broad.)

The compound at 1110-1112 Georgia Street is a 2 bedroom,2 bath home plus a guest house cottage with 1 bedroom and 1 bath plus a detached office structure. The compound is situated on two lots and has off-street parking. Features include a bright Florida room with French doors that open onto a beautiful heated pool & waterfall. The cottage has its own kitchen & living room, tucked away with Dade County Pine walls, hardwood & tile floors and vaulted ceilings. Special details that complete the tropical charm includes brick walkways, private outdoor shower, beautiful covered porches and complete privacy with fencing & lush tropical foliage all located in a wonderful neighborhood.

This lovely 1693 square foot property on a 7197 square foot lot was just listed at $1,395,000 or $806 per square foot. CLICK HERE for more information on this home.

And if you are interested in searching for a home in the Key West or Lower Florida Keys area CLICK HERE to search our mls website. Then give me a call at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fantasy Fest in Key West

Last night was the People's Parade in Key West. Thousands of masked marchers paraded down Fleming Street then up Simonton Street and then came back down Duval Street to showoff their costumes (or lack thereof). This year's theme was Alice in Wonderland and many very crafty people came up with some great costumes in keeping with the theme. But I guess I will more than likely remember the oddball outfits or almost totally nude people more than the clever and expensive costumes. Year after year I am always amazed by the nerve so many people have in showing off their bodies in public. And most that do shouldn't!

As I was driving to the office this morning I had to make a quick stop. The car in front of me made a sharp veer to the left and I stopped to see what caused him to drive to erratically. There near the middle of the street was a turtle making his way across Von Phister Street near the Casa Marina Hotel. I got out of my car and picked up the turtle and put him at the side of the road so that someone less caustious wouldn't snuff him. The pic above is not the turtle in question, but they could be related.

I mention this because there is so much wildlife in Key West. We have chickens, cats and kittens, dogs, iguanas, birds of all feathers, rats (hate them), crabs, raccoons (I saw one in my yard), and all kinds of creatures great and small. And like the wildlife on the streets last night, the natural wildlife is part of the aura that makes Key West a place where a lot of people want to live.

I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks back and one of the places I looked forward to re-visiting was GUMPS. I used to go to San Francisco two or three times a year and I would go to GUMPS every trip. It is a store filled with over-price trinkets and high end art objects that you absolutely cannot live without. Or so I thought. In the old days I would see an item and think I would like to own it. I did buy things there and wanted more things from there. But now that I live in Key West my needs are much different. I have pretty much everything that I need. And if I think about it there really isn't all that much that I want anymore. Life in Key West has made me less acquisitive. We don't have that many national stores, but the Internet provides access to a world of merchandise that can be had in a few days time.

The people in San Francisco were much different than the people in Key West. The "locals" (ha, ha) are very trendy and very well dressed (or down dressed, but not undressed--unless you are in a leather bar). The tourists dress like tourists, but not like tourists dress in Key West. They have their clothes on and they tend to dress up, not down. It seems almost everybody dresses "down" in Key West.

The food prices in San Francisco actually were higher than Key West and I found this surprising. Key West tends to be very pricey, but I guess San Francisco is even more pricey. I did some real estate window shopping and found that housing prices are higher there than here. And the city by the bay beats Key West hands down when it comes to homeless people. I have never seen anything so bad. I have seen lots of beggars in Mexico and Paris, but they are everywhere in San Francisco--everywhere.

There are trade offs we make in life for living where we live and with whom we live. Key West is taking care of my needs at present. I find living with Key West wildlife and laid back atmosphere more pleasing than living in a big city like San Francisco with its' homeless population, high priced restaurants and high priced housing. We have our share of snobs, but thank God there aren't' that many of them. And they usually tend to hang together at any rate. If you stay off the snob guest list you can go far in life in Key West.

CLICK HERE to checkout all current Key West and Lower Florida Keys mls listings. Then give me a call at 305-766-2642 to set up a showing of your new home or business in Paradise.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

605 Free School Lane

The asking price on 605 Free School Lane was just reduced from $1,495,000 to $1,395,000 or $856 per square foot. I think this a great buying opportunity for a second home buyer.

The house has got a lot of really great things going for it. First, it is hidden away on a quiet little lane behind the Hotel Marquesa and next door to Nancy's Secret Garden. Those two neighbors mean that the property values will never go down because the adjacent owner will always maintain their property. Second, the house is in good (not perfect) condition. It is used a legal vacation rental and has the requisite transient rental license. Third, the house is almost always rented. That means that it is almost always producing income to help pay ownership expenses when the property owner is not using the property. This is the exact proto-type of house most second home buyers envision when they think of buying a second home in Key West. Well, they may want the house to have an ocean view, but we know that is next to impossible.

When you enter the gate from Free School Lane you first see a lush yard with free form heated pool and then the beautiful 2 story home with an inviting large covered front porch. The first level features a great room, large galley style kitchen, bar area, full bath, bedroom and tile floors. Upstairs are two enormous bedrooms with private baths, vaulted ceilings and wood floors. All rooms throughout the home have french doors opening to the outdoors. You won't believe the views from the second floor. They will make your friends green with envy.

The house is in the heart of Old Town, but it is located on a quiet lane. It produces income to defer the cost of ownership, and it is always rented. It really produces income. It is totally furnished, and it even has a list people with advance reservations waiting to spend their vacation in paradise in what could be your second home. Interested, then CLICK HERE to review more info about the property and then call me at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. Since the house is always rented, advance notice is required on all showings.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters

Just listed at 330 Julia Street is a wonderful historic building In the Heart of Old Town, just one block from Duval Street. It was originally built in 1900 as the Old Keystone Church. This unique building has been meticulously renovated and converted into mixed residential and commercial space. There are four units including one huge commercial space & three apartments (one 2bd/1ba, one 1 or 2bd/1ba & a studio). Open cathedral ceilings, original wood beams, antique stained glass windows, hardwood & tile floors, reception area & conference room. A rare opportunity to purchase this exquisite, historical building. The building is 4809 square feet on a 3999 square foot lot. It is offered at $2,400,000 or $499 per square foot.

This building is also just a short walk to the Monroe County Courthouse. Since it has 4 off street parking spaces, it would make excellent law offices or other business offices.

CLICK HERE to checkout all of the photos of this one of a kind building in Key West. There are not a lot of opportunities like this.

Monday, October 8, 2007

409 William Street - The Gideon Lowe House

The Gideon Lowe House at 409 William Street is located within Key West’s National Register of Historic Places in the heart of Old Town. This 2 ½ story historic landmark was originally built by the youngest son of one of the island’s earliest Bahamian settlers (c.1845) and expanded to its current grandeur (c.1866). Today’s completed renovation was overseen by a New York architectural firm, and now is offered as a home of superior design, detail, construction, and history. The lushly landscaped yard haven is perfect for entertaining with an expansive deck finished in exotic Brazilian wood that overlooks the tiled pool. The front second story balcony provides that all important sunset view. The house has two master suites with walk-in closets plus two additional bedrooms. This restored gem sits on a sleepy and palm shaded street within walking distance to the Historic Key West Seaport and it's only three blocks from Duval. And it has 2 off street parking spaces.

The house has been a guest house for the past 20 years or so. I watched the restoration from the street and street and think this house has just about all of the bells and whistles an upper end buyer could desire. The house is priced at $2,999,000 or $1,052 per square foot. The house has been on the market for over six months so now is a good time to test the seller's pricing. If you know what I mean. Give me a call at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing.

CLICK HERE to checkout all of the Key West mls listings. There has got to be a home or business that you absolutely cannot live without. You have been wanting to buy a place in the Keys for years. Now is the time to act. Prices are down and sellers are motivated to sell. Don't follow the crowd. Lead it.


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.