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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Modest Proposal - An Eyebrow "Lift" in Key West

405 Frances Street as it appeared in 1965

It was built in 1889 and look like this when it sold in 2009 for $216,500

405 Frances Street looked undressed in June 2010

New "skin" is being added to the old but improved frame

There are many reasons people fall in love with Key West. One of those is the distinctive architecture. I have watched the renovation of numerous homes since I first came to Key West 26 years ago. Some are done by weekend warriors; some by fast-buck artists; and some are done by craftsmen. A little while back I posted a photo of the previously forlorn eyebrow house (above) at 405 Frances Street. I have been going by the place over the past few months and photographing the progress. I am inspired by the transformation. I can't wait to see the finished product.

I got to show the Frances Street house a few times before it was sold. The listing agent would not go inside. The place was filled with years of accumulated crap piled high. The smell was over-powering. People were living inside this hell hole. It was so sad. And scary. Buyers were so turned off that they would not give the place a second thought. Except one buyer finally did. He paid $216,500. The place looked small and unfixable. Now it is beginning to look quite large and impressive.

I mention 405 Frances Street because it is illustrative of many unappreciated houses in Old Town that have been neglected for far too many years. In many cases the owners moved out long ago and left the old house to renters. And in many of those instances no improvements have been made for a long time. When owners don't care, tenants don't care either. It becomes a vicious cycle. Bad houses often depress other houses in the neighborhood.

I found two Key West eyebrow houses that need "eyebrow" lifts to bring them into the 21st Century.

1016 James Street is located near the Historic Key West Seaport. I've shown this place a few times. It's a mess. CLICK HERE to checkout the mls listing info. The listing Realtor calls the place a diamond in the rough. We are both right in our descriptions. If you gut this place and jack up the building to pour new piers and replace joists and other structural members that need fixing, you will have a sturdy new foundation upon which to reinvigorate a classic Key West eyebrow house. Forget about all that is wrong with the current place, because all of that will be gone. It will get transported to the dump. The location will remain. What happens after that is between the owner, the architect, the contractor, and HARC. The asking price is $325,000.

What you cannot see from the mls listing photos is the backyard and the potential to change this house for the better. The yard is 3404 sq ft (40' x 80'). The rear of the property is on Thompson Lane-a small lane with only a few houses that get access from either Frances Street or Grinnell Street. The back of the house has an addition that could be removed and replaced with a new two story addition that could make the entire house move functional. There are two "out" buildings on the lot as well. Key West regulations may permit the renovation of one into a guest cottage or maybe a pool house. There is no pool now, but there is room for one. Or maybe room for covered off street parking.

1016 James Street photographed by the WPA in the 1930s (above)

1016 James Street as it appears in August 2o1o

The "addition" should be removed and rebuilt. Still room for a pool and guest cottage.

House behind on Thompson Lane added covered parking, bricked pavers, and a white fence

The house at 716 Thomas Street (below) was recently listed. CLICK HERE to checkout the listing information on this two story eyebrow house. This house has 1896 sq ft of living space an sits on a 3136 sq ft lot ( 32' x 98'). That means this house has room for a pool as well. 716 Thomas Street is offered at $399,000.

716 Thomas Street as it appeared in 1965

716 Thomas Street in Old Town Key West August 2010

A few years ago you would hear the din of power saws and nail guns all over Old Town. It's much quieter these days. There are not as many construction jobs going on. Builders are still building, but the number of jobs has lessened. I think now is a good time to do a project house because there is competition for the work. And whether you want to do an eyebrow house, a cigar maker's cottage, or a grand conch home, there are many good properties to chose from.

If you would like to see 1016 James Street, 716 Thomas Street, or any other house in Key West, please consider calling me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida.


Anonymous said...

What's across the street from the front of the house on James?


Gary Thomas said...

The Keys Energy offices are located across the street.

Manley deBoer Lumber is at the far corner of James and Frances.

And one of Key West's favorite water holes, Finnegan's Wake is on the corner of James and Grinnell.

This place is a fixer if I ever saw one. But if you consider how wonderful it looked 80 years ago, it may inspire that special person that wants a unique house in Key West. The location will bother some buyers, but half of Old Town has some location issues. And the houses that have perfect locations cost too much. Life is about compromise. Some will accept the location and deal with it. Others will refuse to consider it.


Anonymous said...

The one thing I noticed about James Street is that they have a lot of geckos! Not that it is a bad thing - far from it. It is a very good sign. Geckos are good critters as they eat bugs. However, Geico should film down there as there are always a bunch on the sidewalk! Scurry little one!


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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.