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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Projects of Key West - Not Quite What You Might Expect

The Key West real estate market is in the summer doldrums. Not much is happening. A lot of agents and business owners have left or will be leaving town for a few weeks rest and relaxation before Fantasy Fest hits in October and Season starts around Christmastime. I thought this is a good time to bring readers up to date on some past projects and a couple of new ones.

The house at 617 Grinnell Street is a bit of a rarity in Old Town Key West. Our Historic Architectural Review Commission normally does not allow old houses to be torn down. This place is a rare exception.  The building came down in just a couple of days. The new structure got a roaring start which then came to an abrupt stop. Now the construction is back up and running again.


620 Ashe Street is getting a new lease on life starting with a new foundation. The house was elevated so that new piers and superstructure could be built. The house was lowered onto the new piers'  The old building and new addition will get all  new windows, doors, interiors, etc. 

The house at 410 Simonton Street was in my blog a couple of times during the past few years when it was offered for sale. The place had been carved up into nine apartments by a previous owner. I remember showing the units. I refused to enter one of the apartments which smelled so bad.  But I told buyers this could be one of the sweetest properties once again. And I am confident it will be. A nasty accessory building was removed. Interiors were all removed. Failing piers were replaced. A rickety exterior stairway was taken down.  Slowly, the delicate house of yore is being rebuilt.  I can't wait to see how lovely this place will look when it is completed.
What I like to call the tippie top of Solares Hill is getting a nearly total makeover. A series of old photos followed by recent photos starts with an aerial view of the highest point on in the island of Key West.  I recently found a photo of 700 Elizabeth Street that was taken back in 1986. This house recently had some exterior siding replaced and the entire house was painted. I mention this project because it did not break the bank and the place looks just great. Not all projects need be expensive to be productive. I added a couple of vintage photos I have collected that show this former store and home over the years.

630 Elizabeth Street is located on the corner to the north. At one time it was also a ground level store and had a living space on the second floor. More recently the place was considered a legal duplex by the city. A prior owner had started renovations a couple of years ago and then suspended the project. The new owner restarted renovations last week when a new barricade went up around the property and a shed addition to the rear came down. The shed addition added nothing to the house which is very large. What it did do is take away what a new owner could do with the back of the property.  I have not seen the plans for this house, but hope that the renovation might include a two story rear porch and small pool. 
A couple of months ago the fragments of the house located across the street at 629 Elizabeth were taken down. I say fragments as not much of the original house remained - certainly not much worthy of being saved. The front facade is all that is left of the old house. A new foundation was poured. A new structure is going up day by day.
Memories fade. Old photos help us remember what things "used" to look like. The old walls have only been down a few weeks and the place has a totally different look. The new foundation was built and framing began.
530 Catherine Street is a good example of how quickly and efficiently a place can get renovated when the developer knows exactly what to do and keeps the various trades doing their jobs in a timely manner.
An ugly inefficient building at the rear was taken down. A mid century concrete block addition to the main house was also taken down and was replaced by a new extension that added living space to the home. A pool was added at the rear.

The Post World War II house at 1233 South Street intrigued me and several buyers. This three bedroom home sat on a large and beautifully landscaped corner lot just one block east of the Casa Marina area.  The home was recently purchased. Construction has begun on what will be a complete renovation and addition to this property. Much of the aged landscaping has been removed and new specimen palms planted as a forerunner to work on the home. We shall monitor the progress on this very well located property. Watch for the fake brick facade to be removed along with replacement of correct period windows.
I wrote about 914 Flagler Avenue a couple of times over the years. The original house was built of a man made cement based material similar to concrete block that has natural stone appearance. The house was added onto with concrete block and mid century windows that totally made destroyed the unique look of the original house. The new owner has ripped out the concrete block additions and has started the renovation process.
A block west at 904 Flagler Avenue another mid century home is being transformed into something much larger and totally different from the original little cracker box house that once occupied this lot. I am not sure that I understand the new big box, however.
A more auspicious project is underway a block to the south at 1119 Johnson Street. There a mid century home was razed and a new multi-million dollar home is being built in its place. The lot on which the new home is being built is 7500 sq ft. Essentially, the owner paid $1,300,000 or $692 per sq ft to buy the land on which the new approximate two million home is being built. Keep the price per sq ft in mind when looking at properties for sale in Key West. 

Two blocks to the north a much smaller mid century home at 1128 Von Phister Street was taken down to the ground. A new two story wood frame home will replace the former CBS two bedroom with one bath home. The Von Phister lot is only 4322 sq ft but it sold for $495,000 or $804.88 per sq ft.  That price for the land is higher on a per sq ft basis than just about any active listing in either Old Town or Casa Marina.
Out on the far eastern end of the island a very large house on the Riviera Canal at 3810 Flagler Avenue is getting a total renovation. I showed this house a couple of times when it was offered for sale a few years ago. The water views from the back of the house are incredible. The house itself was dated.  I have only seen and photographed what can be seen from the street. So far I am impressed.


I share these projects with my readers to they can keep up with what is going on down here. I know full well that existing home costs are higher here than just about anywhere in the country. It's greed plain and simple. But once you have a place here, you get to experience what can be a very stress free lifestyle. You can boat, fish, snorkel, go to the gym or yoga studio. You can paint a picture or write the Great American Novel (or blog!). You can be who you want to be and not give a damn what others say because here it really does not matter. So I guess the price of Paradise is worth it. And if you have enough money, you can buy a less than perfect place and fix it up. In some instances you may be able to tear down the old house (or most of it) and build something very charming in its place. 

If you are looking to buy a place in Key West, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at kw1101v@aol.com. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.  Let me help you find your place in Paradise.


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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.