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Saturday, October 21, 2017

1011 Windsor Lane, Key West - Buying Opprotunity

1011 Windsor Lane in Key West, Florida has all the makings of superior renovation project. I recently showed this to a customer seeking that impressive Conch House facade. This place fits that ticket big time. According to the Monroe County Property Appraiser this home was built in 1899. It sits on a large rectangular 5529 sq ft lot (115' X 50') which includes bricked off street parking.  The house is located across the street from St. Mary's Basilica, an Old Town Landmark. Longtime readers know that I like to rummage through my old shoebox to find old time photos of houses. I found a photo of this house, but also of the place next door to the north - see both below.
The above photo shows 1011 Windsor Lane in 1965 or fifty-two years ago. Note the exterior staircase. The original interior stairs were removed to divide the create two separate living units. The property has been a legal two family home since before 1965 but it could be restored to a single family. The exterior staircase still exists. There is no interior staircase at the current time.
This photo shows 1009 Windsor Lane at the same time. Note that it also had an exterior staircase. I don't know when the properties were converted but believe they may have been converted during the World War II era. Many of the larger old homes were either divided or porches enclosed to create additional living spaces for US Military stationed in Key West during the war.  It was not until Key West was re-discovered in the 1970s that some of these war bride housing were taken back to single family status.
The above photo shows 1009 Windsor Lane as it appears in 2017. This home is picture perfect and offers real life proof of how the sister house next door to the south could look after it is completely renovated and restored to single family status.
I feel compelled also to share the above 1920 aerial photo which shows 1011 Windsor Lane and its relationship to St. Mary's across the street and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean three blocks or so to the south.  Duval Street is a five minute walk to the west. Most of the houses shown in this photo still exist. St. Mary's convent shown in the fire succumbed to fire. The barren spaces at the top are now hotels and houses.  And Key West is still a little island at the end of America.
The upper color photo shows the original entry hall where the staircase would have been located. Many homes like this were modernized by the addition of a thick cardboard like panels held in place by battens. The floors on the main level look to be newer and not original. The first floor is divided into four basic rooms two of which are the entry and dining area plus the kitchen in the rear. The second floor is the same size as the main floor less the kitchen ground floor kitchen. The Property Appraiser shows the living area to be 1731 sq ft.
After looking at the inside we went out back. I immediately walked to the rear of the lot to take in the space. Most lots in Old Town are half the size of this. People still have found ways to get in a pool and some garden area. When I saw this space my reaction was "Wow!"  That nasty old dead for years tree trunk could be removed. There is youngish banyan lurking on the side. I think it can be removed. The existing one story building in the corner could be upgraded to a guest cottage with a kitchen. Remember this property has two legal living units. Converting this building would add real value to the property as a whole.

I have seen similar homes where the old cook shack (small attachment above rear) would be removed and a two story covered porch added. The main level rear of the house would have French doors opening onto the veranda overlooking the pool, garden, and guest cottage. The master bedroom would be located on the second floor rear. It would also have French doors which would open out to the upper deck. Imagine sitting on that deck late in the evening. I think could be quite satisfying.
I snapped a photo from the second floor front porch of St. Mary's. Having the church across the street could be quite a blessing.  That view will never go away.  The people who go there are nice people who primarily go there on Sundays and who do not create a ruckus at night. I find the location rather heavenly myself.

1011 Windsor Lane is offered for sale at $1,299,000.  Almost all things in life are negotiable. I think this property is a real buying opportunity. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and more listing photos. 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. This could be a really fun project. This is a solid home which primarily needs updated.

Friday, October 20, 2017

1119 White Street, Key West - Impressive Commercial Building For Sale

Buyers looking for an impressive commercial building in a highly visible location need to look no further. The former Island Gym building located at 1119 White Street is available at the asking price of $1,100,000.  The building is architecturally impressive and may be adaptable to a variety of commercial and/or professional office type situations.. The building is located two blocks from the new Key West City Hall, two blocks from prominent Monroe County Administrative offices,  and near other  retail, food service, and tourist related businesses on the White Street corridor.
 The Listing Realtor describes the property this way:
"This ideally located parcel in the White St. Corridor consists of a double lot in the heart of Key West's Old Town totals 8,150 SF on the Corner of White and Catherine St. The building is a beautifully maintained 1,895 SF concrete 1938 art deco structure, with rights to expand to the curb and/or add a second level."

I dug into my old shoebox and found a photo of 1119 White Street taken in 1965 that shows the gas station property that previously existed.  I recall a larger gas station at the site when I moved to the area in 1995.  I vaguely recall that building as having been renovated as opposed to a new building been built from ground up.  The Property Appraiser website shows building permits for numerous improvements before it became the Island Gym. It was then update again to add the locker rooms and attendant facilities. 

My shoebox also contained the 9160 black and white photo (below) looking across White Street at a mixed-use property.. That photo looks so ancient now. It reflects a much sleepier time in Key West. I took a the lower color which shows the same building as it now appears. A real estate office is located on the opposite corner. The National Weather Service is located two blocks south. Almost every building on this section of White Street has been renovated or replaced to keep up with the new Key West economy.
The original Key West High School is also located two blocks south of 1119 White Street. The old high school was disassembled and rebuilt over the past two years and is not the Key West town hall. The National Weather Service is located opposite city hall. The great Atlantic Ocean is five blocks to the south. Duval Street is a five or so walk to the west. Key West is an island and 1191 White Street is centrally located to all that Key West offers. 
White Street is one of four streets that run from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It is two blocks south of Truman Avenue which runs that length of the island as US1. The ease of access to this location is obvious. I was saddened to see the Island Gym close. But its closing opens the opportunity for some new business to set up shop so to speak in a dynamic location.
 which is city and county government as well as tourist and retail businesses. I think 1119 White Street could easily be converted into medical offices. There is abundant on site parking plus on street parking.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule an appointment to see the beautiful building and explore how it may meet your business needs. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Key West, Not Your Usual Fish Story

I was going through my old shoebox looking at photos the other day when I found this picture taken way back in the day. It has absolutely nothing to do with real estate other than dealing with the consequences of being located in the wrong place at the wrong time. We all know that location, location, and location are paramount to successful real estate deals. Bad locations often lead to bad consequences.  But this true story has only a tangential reference to real estate location which I will get to later in today's blog.

I was a legal staff assistant to a county judge in Jefferson County Colorado in the late 1960s. In 1964 the voters of Colorado got to elect county judges for the first time ever. I was a junior in high school and president of the Jeffco Teen Dems. Our group of teens walked door to door on weekends canvasing for three attorneys who were candidates for three judgeships. Two of the three were elected, and in 1969 I got a full time job working for one of them, Francis W. Jamison. (I had just started law school.) After he left the bench, he went on to become a full time professor at the University of Denver College of Law. I attended his memorial service a few years ago. It was the largest such memorial I ever went to. The place was filled with a lot of gray haired old men and women (I recognized the faces of the older men as being judges or lawyers) and as many or more younger men and women - mostly attorneys who had studied under him.  I don't know how many of my dear readers have gone to a professor's funeral. I never did until then. But when I stepped inside that room I knew exactly why the old lawyers, judges, and young lawyers were there: respect for the man who taught the law and in earlier days practiced it and later presided as a judge.
During the time I worked for him we had many discussions about all kinds of things - about his time in Korea; working his way through law school by attending law school at night like I was doing; politics; living in the world; teaching by example on how to be a man.  The courthouse was located ten miles west of Denver. Like Key West, it's not a place you happen to stop by. You go there for a reason. But while there, many practicing lawyers would drop in to pay their respects to Frank. The DU Law School had a practice program approved by the Colorado Supreme Court which permitted law students to provide legal assistance to indigent people. Many students would often stop by to visit the judge even though their cases were in other courtrooms.

The color photo above shows the Jefferson County Hall of Justice on the right. It was built new to house the judges elected to the bench in 1964. That was more than fifty years ago. Jefferson County is located west of Denver.  As Denver grew much of the population moved westward and into the mountains. The 1964 Hall of Justice no longer exists. A new and larger building is now located a few miles to the south. The county courthouse shown on the left jn the photo is also gone. Google maps shows this space is now a parking lot at the Colorado School of Mines.

Three judges were elected to the bench in 1964 - two Democrats and one Republican. Each had a different personality. Judge C.F. Johnson was the sole Republican elected in 1964. He was at least a decade older than either Democrat. He reminded me as being a sly old fox. I think he was smarter than all get out, and comfortable with himself not to call attention to himself. Judge Shannon was the other Democrat who was later elected as District Judge and then became Presiding District Court Judge of the First Judicial District.

In the 1960s and 1970s the county bench had limited jurisdiction over specific civil and criminal matters including wildlife violations. One day Judge Jamison heard a case involving an over-zealous wildlife officer who cited someone for something. I don't remember anything about the trial, but I remember what happened later. The officer's name was Hatfield or something like that. He was nice enough, I guess. But I could tell he had an authoritarian personality. I guess a lot of people have those. One might think judges have them. After I became practicing lawyer I ran into a lot of judges and quickly realized many judges have authoritarian personalities. Judge Jamison told me he did not judge other people. He said he didn't have the power to do that. He listened to the evidence and decided if the defendant had broken the law or if a plaintiff had proved his or her case. 

The State did not prove the case that Officer Hatfield had lodged against a wayward fisherman or whatever it was. The wildlife officer dropped into the Judge's chamber after the trial to pay his respects before he went on his way. The officer did not challenge the finding. Later the Judge told me the story which took place soon after the election. He and his two county judicial running mates had been stopped by the same wildlife cop up in the mountains outside of Golden, Colorado. They had gone fishing and allegedly did something wrong, enough so that Officer Hatfield cited them for it. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Judge Jamison said they held a summary trial on the spot - just like the top photo. I think the non-elected attorney was appointed a special prosecutor who lost the case. The three fishermen were set free. Now that may read like a kangaroo court proceeding. I know it reads and sounds fishy.  Maybe it was. Maybe it was a lesson not to be so aggressive with the public. Just because a person wears a badge does not mean that every infraction must lead to some kind of legal peril. 
I wrote about Judge Jamison a couple of times earlier in my blog. He was the biggest influence on my career and in my life, even more so than my father and mother. The only time I saw him get angry was after the trial of a two truck driver who beat a small boy with a belt. The boy's grandmother discovered belt marks on the boy's back and buttocks while she was bathing him a couple of days after boy was beaten. She called the police who arrested the boy's mother's tow truck driver boyfriend. A jury convicted the man after an all day trial. The Judge started to speak as if he was going to impose sentence. He recited the awful things proven during the trial which the Defendant had done to the small boy. Then the Judge said something like "The Court is so angry at what the Defendant has done, that I cannot impose sentence today" or words to that effect. He ordered a per-sentence evaluation. The sentencing hearing was held a month or so later. The Judge imposed jail time and stopped talking for a prolonged silence. (He did that on a few occasions to get the attention of other defendants who never before appreciated the fact they could be spending time in jail or prison for their behavior.)  When he resumed speaking he ordered the Defendant to undergo anger management therapy and put him on probation.

Later in chambers I expressed my displeasure with the sentence. Imagine little old me, a pipsqueak law student, telling a judge he had made a mistake in sentencing. What balls I must have had. He said he didn't like the tow truck driver's conduct any more than I did. Then he said the guy must have a lot of problems in life to take out that much aggression on a little boy. He said putting that guy in jail would not have done anything other than make him angrier. He said he hoped escaping punishment and entering into a supervised probation program would help this man to figure how to behave.
(The above photo is of Judge Joseph P. Lewis, Betty Astle, Velma Bates, and me.  Judge Lewis was appointed to fill Judge Jamison's position on the county court after Jamison retired to become a law professor. Judge Lewis was a real gentleman. I admired him deeply.)

I hope you like my tale about roadside justice. It wasn't your usual fish story.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Just Listed: 413 Frances Street Key West Florida

Just Listed, but not by me, 413 Frances Street, Key West, Florida.  The listing Realtor describes this way:
"Beautifully renovated historic home located on highly desirable Frances Street in the heart of Old Town Key West. Meticulous restoration with high ceilings and Dade County Pine walls and floors. Gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Two bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, plus a downstairs bedroom that is currently used as a den. Pool, back deck, and front porch for enjoyable outdoor living. Two off street parking spaces and a fabulous location near the Historic Seaport make this a Key West tropical oasis for the island lifestyle."
 When you enter the front doorway of 413 Frances Street your eyes are drawn to the rich Dade County Pine walls that expand from the entry foyer to the living room and dining room on the right and to the main hallway and staircase to the left. This house is the embodiment of what would-be home buyers dream of in a Key West house. The almost rustic appearance is intentional. The previous owner did a  meticulous renovation just a couple of years ago. This home has what discerning second home buyers want: lots of charm, off street parking (for two cars), a pool, and nothing that needs fixed. That's almost Paradise in itself.
The main floor has the entry hall with living room and dining room on the right side of the house. A full bath is on this level as is the kitchen with center island. The current owner uses the room located just to the rear of the kitchen as a den or family room. Prior owners had glass doors to provide privacy when this space was used as a third guest bedroom. French doors open out onto the pool area on one side and out to a large terrace on the other.
Upstairs there are two very good sized bedrooms and full bathrooms. The main floor family room can do double duty as a third sleeping area with a sofa bed. That space could be easily converted into a full time bedroom should climbing the stairs become a problem for a homeowner. (Remember there is a full bathroom on the main floor.) There is bricked off street parking that can accommodate two cars.

413 Frances Street would make a great vacation rental. In fact prior owners successfully rented this home as a monthly vacation rental for several years. The Historic Key West Seaport is a couple of blocks to the north. Duval Street is a five to seven minute walk to the west. The Old Town Bakery and Cole's Peace Bakery are one block away in either direction. Blossoms Market is a block away down Elgin Lane to the east. I had a very tasty and reasonably priced lunch at nearby Azur a few weeks ago.  Monthly renters can walk to one of several nearby gyms or yoga studios. This house could be a cash cow to a buyer who wants a place to stay, a place to rent, and a place to make money for several years to come.

CLICK HERE  to view the Key West MLS datasheet and listing photos. This beautiful home is offered at $1,299.000. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, if you would like to see this house or any other home in Key West.  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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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.