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Monday, June 27, 2016

323 Fleming Street, Key West - Investment Property

The Case for Buying a Law Office Biding in Key West
The listing Broker aptly describes the office building located at 323 Fleming Street in Key West as
"Spectacular, Historic two-story concrete block building in the heart of Old Town. Additional lot provides off street parking for 4 cars and serves the offices currently in use here. Directly across the street from City offices and the Courthouse and adjacent to the US Post Office on beautiful Fleming Street. Separate offices upstairs and down, wrap-around covered porches overlooking Street on both floors, tall ceilings inside with lots of wood floors, elaborate wood trim, private offices, reception areas, updated bathrooms and storage. Building is in great condition. This is a beautiful building."
 I dug around in my old shoebox and found an aerial photo of this part of town which was taken in the 1930s. I added an arrow to point out the location of 323 Fleming Street. The larger white building in front is the old Monroe County Courthouse. The court house was built in 1890 and it originally was painted white. That block changed immensely in the 90 years since the black and white photo was taken. The old courthouse was remodeled into county office buildings. The court house annex to the north was added in 1965. A large administrative building was added at the southwest corner as well. The large white building to the left rear of 323 Fleming is the former Cosmopolitan Hotel which was located on Caroline and Front Street (razed).
The above photo was taken in the 1920s and shows the old courthouse, the old county jail, and courthouse grounds. 323 Fleming Street is noted on this photo. Take note of the group of buildings opposite of the courthouse in the 500 block of Whitehead Street. Most of those buildings still exist today and all are either law offices or offices and a combination of some residential housing except for one guesthouse. Two of the buildings at the corner of Southard were razed and are now tourist related commercial. Several of the larger buildings in the 600 block of Whitehead are law offices with a couple of small guest houses thrown in. The small cottages in the foreground were razed. That block is now a county parking lot.
I understand 323 Fleming was originally built for the US Government. I believe the use was related to the military as was most of the ground in what is now Truman Annex. This building was sold by the US Post Office to a private party in 2000. The deed restricts the purchaser, successors, and assigns to comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards of Rehabilitation. That essentially means a subsequent owner will have a really tough time altering the historical architecture of this building. Today this 2408 sq ft building is used as legal offices. The building and adjacent parking lot sit on two adjacent parcels totaling 4611 sq ft lot. As you look at the photos which follow and read the comments I write, remember that this building was built by the United States Government. That says a lot because the government does not build cheap. It builds substantial, and it builds to last. It does not cut corners to save a buck. As a prospective buyer your long term building maintenance costs should be less as compared to a stick built building.
The above photos demonstrate the pure aesthetic beauty of this old building, and suggest the rationale for buying a law office located just steps from the courthouse. I am not a building inspector but I have a lot of experience in showing houses and buildings in Key West. I did not see any deferred maintenance. The concrete block is solid and well maintained. The metal roof was replaced in 2007 as was the HVAC and other interior features. There is no better location than this for a law firm or a building with individual offices rented to solo practitioners. Accountants or other professionals who deal with the county on a routine basis might also find the location a substantial benefit.
The main floor offices could function very well for a small firm or a group of solo practitioners. There is a central reception area and administrative assistant area. There are four offices on this floor one of which is so large it could be divided to create two smaller offices. Another office (immediately above) is so special that it could serve as a conference room as opposed to law office.
The second floor offices offer several different scenarios to an investor including rental of individual offices to solo practitioners with shared secretarial, document processing, and conference room use. This floor has three offices, conference room, substantial file storage space, and bathroom in addition to that magnificent wrap-around second floor deck. One very simple reason a lawyer would prefer to be located near the courthouse is the probability he or she is a litigator or that a large part of his practice involves court appearances. Remember the parking spaces, a lot of the law offices I mentioned on Whitehead Street do not have parking for clients. So while the offices may be close to the courthouse, they do not provide client parking.  Some share the building with apartments where clients may get to smell what's for dinner or hear dogs barking. While the excuse "This is Key West" works for some folks, clients who are paying huge legal fees expect and deserve better.
Finally, look back up at the black and white aerial photos and consider both this building and this location from the standpoint of scarcity. You will see this area of town has a limited number of buildings which currently exist and fewer buildings which could be razed or even renovated to create new office buildings. The city will not allow an existing residential use to be eliminated to create a new business use even in a area zoned for the specific business use. I think as the years pass by, this particular property will appreciate in value to a greater extent than the multi-purpose buildings on Whitehead and nearby streets. As our society becomes more litigious, there will be a greater demand for lawyers and law offices. 

CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on 323 Fleming Street which is offered for sale at $1,275,000. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

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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.