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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Tales from the Projects of Key West

Key West is a small island city located at the very end of the Florida Keys.  State law restricts the construction of new houses under the Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) in all of the Florida Keys as a part of hurricane evacuation plan.  The fact is that Key West, like the other Keys, has a finite amount of land in general and a very limited amount of buildable lots in particular. The City of Key West has its own restrictive ordinances that limit the size, height, and density of new housing when space and ROGO units are available. It is for this reason that much of the construction in Key West is renovation as opposed to new construction.

Today's blog is an update of a series of blogs I have written about the Projects of Key West. I have written about some of today's houses before while others are new. I have even included some commercial spaces that are new or that are being remodeled.

On October 27,2007 the Key West Citizen reported the house at 730 United Street was heavily damaged by fire caused by someone smoking in bed. The house sat abandoned for nearly five years. Earlier this year renovation and expansion began.

Ten months later it looks as though the newly remodeled structure is nearly complete.

A bank owned house at 1021 Fleming Street that was listed at just $321,750 had ten cash offers higher than asking price and sold for $400,000 in 2010. I wrote an offer for one buyer. He bid too low.  Dang it!  Look at what is happening now.  This is still a work in progress. The general contractor built a new house from ground up for a buyer of mine. She told me she had worked with numerous contractors on several houses over the years. She said he was the best contractor she had ever worked with.

September 2010
October 2012


A former cigar maker's cottage in the 400 block of Virginia Street is getting a redo by a local duo who have revamped several Key West properties.  I remember showing this house several years ago when it was vacant. I told prospective buyers that the location just off Duval Street would make it a great vacation rental and I told them the extra large lot allowed plenty of room for a pool.  We will check back later to see how this turns out. I am expecting nothing less than Key West Charm!

 During the past couple of years I wrote about the really charming house at 821 Southard Street. The house was priced a bit high and it did not have a pool. Those two factors dissuaded a lot of potential buyers from making the move to buy this classic Key West home. One smart buyer succumed to the beauty of the place and is now in the process of doing some tree trimming, cosmetic repairs to the facade, and I understand will be adding a pool in the very near future.
March 2010
October 2012
319 Grinnell Street was a bank owned property that went under contract very quickly after it was listed in 2011. The house had been illegally divided into three separate living units. Construction has just started on the property which has a nice location near the Key West Seaport. I look forward to watching progress on this old place.

This room had a function toilet in it with no walls! Right off the kitchen!
October 2012
I wrote about the formerly bank owned house at 405 Olivia Street in January 2001 when it was initially offered for sale at $450,000.  The house was a friggin' mess on the inside principally because there were three bedrooms on the second floor and only one bathroom which was located on the ground floor with the entrance off the kitchen. Yet the great location opposite the Ernest Hemingway House, the charming original facade, and the deep and wide lot made this REO property a need-to-own for several would be buyers. The house sold for $381,000 on June 30k 2011.  Renovation started with the demolition of an ugly carport shed addition to the main house. Much if not all of the original foundation was replaced, and the entire inside was rebuilt.
405 Olivia St in 1965

Before renovation

March 2012
October 2012
Pool has been added

Earlier this year I wrote about one of the grand old Conch Houses of Key West located at 522 Grinnell Street. I got to show it a couple of times to very serious buyers. But the very high asking price for a house that needs an awful lot of work prevented any of my three buyers from making an offer. (All three bought other houses by the way-and not cheap ones!)

522 Grinnell Street had been gutted on the inside. The very tall ceilings, ancient crown moldings, and simple but elegant architectural detail remained in tact on the inside. A decrepit old addition at the rear was removed and an out building and garage were torn down. The remaining rear lot left room for a new first and second story porch at the rear. There is plenty of room for a pool.  The listing expired the the owner renewed construction on the house.

A few years ago the mixed use building at 927 Eaton Street suffered a fire. The place was repaired. The building was never a "looker".  In recent times the building started to show signs age (we all do, if we live long enough). In August I noticed a construction sign go up and knew a make-over at minimum was going to occur.

The two photos above show concrete repairs to address spalling which is the deterioration of iron rods used to reinforce the concrete. Spalling normally occurs at the tops and sides of concrete buildings and CBS structures.   The two lower photos show the building after the spalling was addressed and the building re-painted.

Friends and fans of the Green Parrot Bar may be please to learn that the next door neighbor Boalu's looks like it is history and replaced by a newly built Charlie Mac's smokehouse. I was amazed at how quickly the old building was torn down and the new building was constructed. Granted the construction of the new building is simple, but the simplest buildings normally take forever and ever to get built in Key West.

Charlie Mac's is now open. I walked down the parking lot to snap a pic of the smokehouse. It was smoking up something might tempting this morning.

Many potential buyers in Key West see old houses and say they would prefer to tear down some of the old places and build new. That is not normally allowed in Old Town because of HARC (Historic Architectural Review Commission) guidelines.  Exceptions are sometimes made for non-contributing structures. Such appears to be the case for the former house located at 710 Windsor Lane shown below.

The house shown above was built in 1954. It was demolished and the foundation for a new residence is being poured on the quite large lot (5674 sq ft) located near the top of Solares Hill. To be continued...

Finally, there are actually several new houses being built near the Casa Marina area that are affordably priced. Each house has three bedrooms, three baths, a pool, off street parking, and all new construction with about 1311 sq ft of interior living space priced in t e low $600s. These houses compare in price to some condos and townhomes in the Truman Annex, but these are single family homes with substantially more living space and a private pool.

A couple of the houses are already owner occupied and a few are under contract. It is great to see reasonably priced homes available for local and seasonal owners who want new construction. I was told the insurance prices for wind, flood, and casualty are remarkably low on these homes.

If you are looking to purchase a new house in Key West or buy a place that needs some work, please consider contacting me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc.  Let me help you find your place in Paradise.


Anonymous said...

The Captain says:

I'm sorry. 730 United Street is out of control. The lot is 3,750 sq ft. It is zoned single family. Yet the structure now has more than 3,000 sq ft and 6 bathrooms! And absolutely no green space. Oh, did I mention that the owner is a prominent local businessman. Can you say BUBBA! How the city and HARC ever approved the lot/interior sq ft ratio is likely to be investigated in the future.

Gary, I can't believe that you did not mention that 405 Olivia is listed for sale. ($799k and still unfinished).

Gary Thomas said...

Captain, I appreciate your comments greatly. I looked at the HARC Minutes from Sept 2011 until March 2012 to see if I could find any reference to HARC approval of 730 United Street. I found none. Maybe someone with extra time ought to go to the HARC office and ask to see the minutes and then go to the Planning Department to ask the same questions that you raised.

When I started taking photos I noticed the back lot had an awfully large floor - the darned thing took up most of the rear lot. I questioned the size of that thing then, but left it alone since it really didn't concern me.

I watch a good number of HARC meetings on TV. I know members discuss how a proposed building fits in with the other homes in a given area. It is obvious the house that burned was of similar size and design as the other houses near it to the west and south and those across United Street. The new building is like on STEROIDS or something. It is out of character with the other houses.

I did not mention that 405 Olivia Street is offered for sale because it is way to far from being near ready to sell. The good news is that the builder is very competent. I would prefer my buyer to know exactly what he or she or they are going to buy. I'll ask for permission to write about the finished house when the time is right.



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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.