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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Projects of Key West - An Update

It's been nearly nine months since my last post on the ongoing rebuilding of our little place town out in the middle of the ocean. Well, maybe not the exact middle of the ocean, but it's not in the middle of America in any way, shape, or form. It takes forever to get here on a plane, a car, or boat. But once you do get here, you don't want to leave. A lot of people who come here dream about what their lives would be like if they could make the move to Key West and stay here - forever.  For those readers who have got the itch to make the switch to Key West  the next step is finding a place to live. You don't want to rent. You are looking to buy. Some potential buyers think they might buy a fixer-upper and create their own private bungalow. I've been taking photos of some of current  fixer projects which I like to call The Projects of Key West.

Just below are some houses I have posted before. They have either been completed or are nearly completed. Please take a look. There are links to many more photos. I encourage readers to click the links as they sometimes show dramatic changes in some houses.

629 Elizabeth Street is located at the top of Solaris Hill, the highest point in Key West. This house sits on an odd shaped lot where Windsor Lane begins and angles downward toward the cemetery. As you can see from the photos below, there's very little of the original house that remains. The front facade and roof were kept but later most of even the original parts were replaced. The original framing and pier system were removed. New piers were built. The house and new additions framed and construction began. Later a good portion of the front wall was sistered to the new framing. The roof was replaced. One addition was added to the right side of the house and a second at the left rear. A new white picket fence defines the lot. There is no pool. 

CLICK HERE to view more photos.

630 Elizabeth Street is located across the street from the house just above. Long ago there was a store on the ground floor and living quarters on the second floor. Later the city recognized the building as a legal duplex with a ground floor apartment and a second floor apartment. Two doors on the front provided separate entry to the two apartments. During construction the house was raised and piers replaced to fix foundation issues. The house was totally gutted on the inside. The second and third floor ceilings were dropped just a bit. This allowed the third floor to have more headroom. A Juliet balcony was added to the third floor rear where the views are pretty remarkable. I represented a prior owner and took some amazing photos (not for their quality, but rather for the views) from this highest point in Old Town Key West. I dealt with a bunch of cry babies who wanted to buy this house but who were not willing to pay the price.  I told lots and lots of lookers at the time I had it listed that one day they would look back and regret not having paid the price to get a one-of-a-kind property. Look at the pics below. I think you'll agree. The current owner has created a trophy property. Hooray for him! I salute you, Sir!
CLICK HERE to see more photos of this very special Key West property.

I consider 410 Simonton Street to be an iconic Key West property.  Everyone who walks by or drives by takes note of its atypical style.  A prior owner divided the interior spaces into apartments and added a couple of buildings off to the side and rear. Somehow he added a free form pool as well. The place was a friggin' mess! I refused to enter one of the apartments when the building was for sale. The place reeked of dog. That's all gone now. The new owner has gutted the place, taken down the horrible additions, and is on the way to completing an awe-inspiring restoration.

CLICK HERE to view more photos of 410 Simonton Street.

The total renovation of 620 Ashe Street was just completed. This home barely resembles the original house. The original asbestos shingle siding was removed. The house was elevated and new piers installed. The house was re-framed and new windows and doors were added. The original outdoor stairway to the second floor was removed. The main level side entry got a proper redo as well. A new white picket fence completed the project.

There are two other houses in the Casa Marina Area that appeared in earlier Project Blogs which are now completed as well. 1128 Von Phister Street was a small mid-century home that was razed to make way for a new two story home designed by Matthew Stratton. The Von Phister lot is only 4322 sq ft but it sold for $495,000 or $804.88 per sq ft. This sale reflects a trend of new buyers who are purchasing houses in good locations that can be razed to build new houses.

A similar but more expensive scenario is taking place two blocks to the south at 1119 Johnson Street. The new owner purchased  this property two years ago at the price of $1,300,000 and then took down the mid-century home. A new two story home was recently completed. The Casa Marina Area lot is 7500 sq ft. The owner paid $1,300,000 or $692 per sq ft to buy the land on which the new approximate two million home was built. This particular block is noted for its extraordinary architecture.

1119 Johnson Street before the CBS wall and the original home were razed


One of the most noticeable project in the renovation going on at the corner of Truman Avenue at Eisenhower Drive. This big hulk of a house looked abandoned for years is now getting all fixed up. The original shell of 920 Eisenhower Drives is all that remains of this old house. The house was elevated and new priers installed. Portions of the framing were replaced. All interiors were gutted. Most of the original clapboard siding has been replaced. There are new windows as well. 

810 Georgia Street is getting an update and revision to the facade. I wrote about this house three years ago when it was for sale. Now the house is getting renovated.
One half block away and on the opposite side of the street is 821 Georgia Street which is also being updated.
920 Simonton Street is another visible renovation project s it is located near the corner of Simonton at Truman. Most of the work here appears to be "repairs" to fix things that were not working correctly as opposed to a substantial renovation. I am adding photos nonetheless so we can monitor what the place looked like before, during, and after whatever is happening to this old house.
622 Grinnell Street appeared in my blog several times in the past few years. It was offered for sale as a legal duplex. There was also a separate cigar maker cottage at the rear. I showed the property several times and thought for sure the new owner would rip the place apart and do a substantial renovation and create a stunning single family home. I was mistaken. I understand the main building will now become three apartments. The cigar maker cottage will be updated and will a long term rental. Many of the old trees and foliage have been removed. You can now actually see the house and the cigar maker cottage. It appears the city allowed the owner to add a curb cut at the front to provide off street parking.

1121 Whitehead Street in Bahama Village is getting a new lease on life. 
The photo below shows this house in 2013 when the property was for sale as a bank owned property. It was a mess on the inside. CLICK HERE to see what it looked like then. It's in the middle of renovation now. The photo two below shows the current exterior.
1315 Whitehead Street is an example of totally new construction. I dug into the old shoe box and found a photo of an old one story concrete block building that was located at this site  in 1965. Later that building was either razed and a new two story office building was built, or the original building had a second story addition. I remember attending a closing in this building in 2000 when a law firm had its offices here. That firm moved away as did other occupants. The building sat vacant for several years until it was recently purchased. The old CBS building was razed and now one new house is being built. I think there will be others added later. This is a dynamic location near the Southernmost Point. See the nighttime photo that shows how wonderful this ocean view property looks when all the tourists are gone.
There is another new house being built at 719 Thomas Street which is also in Bahama Village. I rooted around in my old shoe box and found a photo of the Thomas Street property that was taken in 1965. I took the photo of the empty lot in 2012. I'm not sure when the old house was taken down. I do know a new one is going up right now.
415 United Street is another Bahama Village area renovation that really looks interesting to me. I took photos of this house when it was for sale a couple of years ago. The place had a 1980s update which meant it got a new kitchen, French doors, decks, etc. but most of the interior rooms were left the way they had been for years. The spaces were cluttered and did not work efficiently. CLICK HERE to see the old photos. It looks like one or both of the rear buildings were removed. The lot is huge. I think this could turn out to be something pretty impressive.
The empty lot at the corner of Waddell Avenue at Reynolds Street, opposite the Casa Marina Hotel and only a couple of blocks from the Atlantic Ocean is getting a new house. 821 Waddell Avenue is now becoming a new Casa Marina Area residence.
There are many more properties undergoing some time of renovation or restoration. There is new construction taking place on Simonton Street and Flagler Avenue. I will be writing about those properties soon. The City of Key West is spending lots of tax and revenue dollars to build a new city hall and other projects in town. And the collection of four large hotels at the gateway to Key West are nearing completion. I have been taking pics of that ongoing project for two years. I will share those photos very soon.

If you are a buyer looking for a fixer-upper or if you can't wait for months to get a place to actually live in soon, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Let me help you find your place in Paradise.


FloridaAG said...

Both Elizabeth Street projects turned out beautiful in my opinion. Steve Krieger and Finer Lines did a great job on 630 Elizabeth.

Gary Thomas said...

I think 630 Elizabeth is stunning. I am sure he will receive an award for excellence in historic preservation. He surely deserves it.

I hope readers understand both the difference in degree as well as in cost between a 'fixer' and a project such as occurred at 630 Elizabeth. There is a huge cost in time and money in doing an excellent job. That is why I question potential buyers when they say they are looking for a fixer project. You don't know what kind of can of worms you may be opening when you undertake a renovation in this little town. I love to see projects like Elizabeth that succeed. I cringe when I see people do something half way.



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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.