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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Revenge of the Projects of Key West

It's time for a new update so that my blog followers who have not been to Key West for several months can track the progress (or slowness) of some of the more interesting projects of Key West.

618 Grinnell Street looks quite attractive with its new yellowish color and the new addition at the rear. A pool has been installed, but it is not finished.  A couple of out buildings were added at the rear, but they are no where near complete either.
618 Grinnell St built 1889, photographed 1965
June 2011
September 2012
September 2012
618 Grinnell Street is being substantially rebuilt. The house was elevated and the old peers removed and replaced by new peers that were drilled and placed at cap rock. The back one-third of the house was removed and was rebuilt. New side porches were added to replace the porches that previously existed. The interiors are being re-purposed as well. A structural wall in the original home was removed by a prior owner. The current owner is putting that wall back where it originally was. The work is supposed to be finished by late November. Perhaps I will be able to share some final interior photos with my readers at that time.

911 Watson Street is probably a place you have never driven by because it is off the beaten path. Its notable neighbor to the north is the Key West Cemetery on Olivia Street. Bare Assets is its most famous neighbor to the south on Truman Avenue.  Few locals and fewer tourists drive down this one block street unless they are there for a specific reason. The original house at 911 Watson had several additions and out buildings most of which were demolished after the property was purchased a couple of years ago.  The main cottage was saved and is the focal point for the redevelopment of this incredible 10,000 sq ft lot. Local architect Matthew Stratton designed this project.

I have not discussed the project with the architect or builder. I think we are seeing three different parts of the new house emerge which will have the old house be the focal point where guests arrive. The formal living area and kitchen and dining will likely be at ground level on one side. Perhaps the family or guest bedrooms will be on the upper level. I suspect the master suite will be in the opposite building. Perhaps there will be a stairway from the master suite that leads down to the pool at the rear.

I think the "weathered" look of the front facade is intentional as the boards are crisp and clean. The sides are crisply painted. I like the juxtaposition if that is the fate of this front porch.

909 Flagler Avenue circa 1965
 The former church at 909 Flagler Avenue in the Casa Marina area was destroyed during Hurricane Wilma.  That building and two smaller wood frame buildings were demolished to create a 10,381 sq ft building lot (98' x 106'). The property is located adjacent to the truly historic Reynolds property next door to the left.
July 3rd - notice the firecracker Royal Poinciana Tree at the rear

 909 Flagler Avenue is another project designed by Matthew Stratton. I think the building on the far right will be the master suite as it is separated by what I think is the main living area in the center.  I'll bet family or guest bedrooms will be located to the rear of the garage.
924 Flagler Avenue circa 1965
The house across the street at 924 Flagler Avenue is a restoration of a beautiful Casa Marina home that was owned by one family until the current owner purchased the property a couple of years ago. The house recently had a new roof installed which is being complemented by new copper gutters and copper trim.  The original wood sash windows are being replaced with custom manufactured mahogany windows with hurricane wind resistant glass. These new windows will qualify this home for maximum windstorm insurance mitigation credits but will still retain the charm of this elegant home.

 You probably can't see it, but the original jalousie windows in the upper photograph are now replaced by custom made French doors made of mahogany with newly crafted paladin windows above. It's my theory, but only my theory, that the original paladin windows were meant to compliment the design of the Casa Marina hotel just one half a block away to the west. I found the photo below of the old dining room.

Slowly, but surely, the windows and doors are being replaced.  The original roof has also been replaced by new age materials that replicate the look of the old roof but that provide windstorm insurance credits the former roof was unable to do. Even the double garage got a new roof and copper gutters that will last this Casa Marina beauty well into the next century.

Another Casa Marina area home located at 817 Waddell Avenue has just been completed and is awaiting clean-up of building materials. This beautiful home was designed by Tom Pope. It is located at the corner of Reynolds Street and Waddell Avenue opposite the grounds of the Casa Marina Resort.  I wrote about the vacant lot when it was for sale a couple of years ago.  Construction has taken about one year if my recollection serves me well. I live a couple of blocks away and have taken progressive photos of the space from vacant lot through the stages of development. Landscaping was recently installed. I assume the interiors are complete as plantation shutters protect the interior from prying eyes and there is a nice chair on the second floor front porch for people watching.

December 2010 from Reynolds Street
Changed colors more than twice
817 Waddell Avenue - Key West
The one thing that puzzles me about the property above is why the side yard has not been fenced in.  You can see a new fence being installed about five feet from the pool house at the right rear. The adjacent side yard is probably too small to sell off to some other buyer.  It will be interesting to see how the vacant space is used once the construction has totally ended.

Another new house is the property being built at 615 Thomas Street in Bahama Village, just opposite to the parking entrance to the Shipyard Condominiums in Truman Annex.  An old relic of a falling down house used to sit at this location. Today a substantial new two story home is being constructed where the former cottage once stood. Instead of old school carpentry, this new house is using many modern day building features that will make this home a notable addition to the area.

Frequent readers will recall my former listing at 630 Elizabeth Street (below). The house sits at the very top of Solares Hill - the highest point on the Island of Key West. Passers-by could not help notice how badly she looked. The big old girl is getting a major face lift as well as new dentures, a tummy tuck, hip replacement, intestinal bypass, and breast augmentation. I kid you not (well just a little).
630 Elizabeth Street built circa 1887, photographed in 1965
This big old building was traditionally a two unit. In the very old days the downstairs unit was a neighborhood store. Presumably the owner lived on the second floor. Judging from the interiors when I had this property listed for sale, I would guess the interiors were updated in the 1970s. The downstairs was partitioned into several bedrooms with one shared bath and kitchen in the rear. A separate entrance on the left provided access to the second floor apartment which had two bedrooms, one bath and an open living-kitchen area. The front porch on the second level was unsafe and it was removed.  The main level had some noticeable foundation issues and it was the probably the cost of fixing the foundation more than any other issue that deterred most of the potential buyers who looked and lusted after this old house.

The new owner hired an experienced contractor and work has begun on the restoration.  The ground level floor was removed and new foundation built in place. The second level floor and some of the super structure were removed as well. New headers were placed around much of what will re-emerge as the second floor. I included a couple of photos below that permit you to see this great example of balloon framing where the exterior shell is built first. The second floor is then added. And finally interior framing and part ions are added at the end.  In this instance, the second floor balcony will get replaced and new and the old columns either replaced or repaired.  I am eager to see how this turns out. Anticipation!
Early photo showing balloon framing
Something akin to intestinal bypass
517 Elizabeth Street half a century ago

A block to the north the house at 517 Elizabeth Street is being given a new lease on life. Note the fake brick veneer and clam shell awnings that were added to modernize the original house decades ago.

517 Elizabeth Street looked like this in late March 2012 when this house sold in just a couple of weeks. The new owners engaged architect Tom Pope who worked with the new owners to develop a plan to update the house and to provide living spaces that we expect in contemporary Key West homes.

The "new" facade is beginning to appear. Specimen palms have been planted in front. The old garage and part of the rear will be demolished to make way for improvements at the back side and the addition of a pool.

 A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about the then "bank owned" house at 1030 Fleming Street. There was a flurry of interest in that property because of the size, location, and relatively cheap price.  One buyer got a really good deal and started the renovation which has taken nearly two years to get to its present status which appears to be nearly done. 
1030 Fleming before it became bank owned
Before it became bank owned

Renovation in progress December 2011

September 2012 renovation nearly complete

The house at 1030 Fleming Street sold for $530,000 in March 2010. I had a cash buyer who offered just a bit less. My buyer's wife was "iffy" on the project and wasn't committed to spending that much money on a bank owned house. My buyer drew a line in the sand and refused to go higher when presented with a 'best and final' opportunity. I have no idea how much the new owner will have spent on this property to redo the place, but I can guarantee you every dollar spent will have been worth it. The place looks great.  This is the kind of place you drive by and remember that you could have had it if only...

909 Pohalski Lane in late 2010

 I sold the little doll house shown above on Pohalski Lane in early 2011. A few months later most of the house was nearly destroyed by a fire. The owner and I learned the lessons of build back after damage.  HARC and the City of Key West Planning Department have rules regarding how a house damaged by fire or storm can be rebuilt.  The owner engaged noted local architect Tom Pope who designed a new house to fit into the space occupied by the former building. The front facade and part of the front roof were saved. Everything else will be brand spanking new. I will share more details when this house is completed. Until then look at the fire damage below (that section of the house was razed), and look at the front facade and part of the newly built two story house to the rear.
Living room
Dry walling in process

Work in Progress
Nearing completion - September 27, 2012

730 Southard St - 1970

730 Southard Street - September 27, 2012
The original house at 730 Southard Street was lived in by the same family for decades. After the matriarch passed a few years ago the property passed to her son who met an untimely demise as well. His widow sold the house in 2010 for $800,000 far short of the original $2,990,000 asking price when first listed in October 2008. The new owners hired Tom Pope as the architect and engaged Todd Kemp as their point person to coordinate the various professionals, contractors, and material men in the renovation of one of Key West's true landmark properties. Maybe someone will write a book about how this house got rebuilt. It is a story worth telling. I'd tell it, but I don't know the facts. I've only heard bits and pieces and watched some of the HARC proceedings on television. The owners deserve a gold medal!
Rear View
 I believe the above photo dates from the 1970s.  Time took its toll on the house at
730 Southard Street. The new owners undertook an ambitious project when they decided to restore this wonderful part of Key West history from the ground up. See the photos below which track a bit of the process.
Original Kitchen being rebuilt from ground up
First and Second story wrap around porches re-engineered and newly built
Insulation under layment for new roof 


The restoration at 730 Southard Street has been amazing to watch. I underestimated the time and amount of work that would be necessary to bring
this old gal back to glory. 

The projects of Key West, aren't they something!


Anonymous said...

What a great update. Thanks, Gary! These owners are really doing beautiful things for Key West. Perhaps the "crash" had a silver lining, at least for some folks.

Last One Left said...

What a great account of the history of some of these projects. The photos put you there. Excellent read! It would be great to be a fly on the wall and review some of the "change orders and budget overruns"

I really enjoyed this and the quarterly update with my morning coffee. On a personal note: as a longtime commercial manager (lots of RTC work) and developer, I really respect your professionalism and ( what I read"between the lines") business ethics and morals. It is clear from my reading of this blog that there is no "gray area" in whom you are representing. Unfortunately, sometimes that is a quality that is hard to find.

Thanks for the Blog!

Steve Cleary

Anonymous said...

The Captain says:

I guess I'm in the minority on this one but other than the restoration of the "grand dames" on prominent Key West corners, I find the other projects disturbing. 615 Thomas is an abomination in my opinion. A less than 5k sq ft lot and you stuff a 2 story house on steriods in there? So much for the neighbor's view or outdoor shower! 909 Pohalski is no different. A 1,500 sq ft lot on a quiet lane and you put an addition like that? Where is HARC? This is Key West, not Miami. Where's the scale? I realize not everyone must live in a 500 sq ft conch cottage but this is ridiculous!

Captain out...........................

Gary Thomas said...

Steve. Thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad you know how to read between the lines...

Captain, I don't know why you don't like the Thomas Street house. I applaud anyone who would spend that much money to build a big house in Bahama Village. I think that owner will be rewarded big time when the Truman waterfront project gets built.

As for Pohalski Lane, > since the house was virtually destroyed and was condemned by the city, the owner had the right to tear it down completely and build a two-story house on the lot, but chose to voluntarily save the front half of the structure (at greater expense) to keep the streetscape the same. If you think for one minute that HARC was not up the owner's yoo-hoo on this project, you don't know how to read between this lines as well as Steve does.



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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.