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Despite hot housing market, affordable homes still exist

Four neighborhoods south of Gandy Boulevard offer a mix of new and older homes and a desire to improve.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 28, 2002


TAMPA -- With property values in South Tampa climbing as fast as the stock market falls, one might not expect affordable homes south of Kennedy Boulevard.

They still exist, south of Gandy Boulevard.

The area is composed of four neighborhoods -- Ballast Point, Interbay, Port Tampa and Gandy -- each with its own personality and in various stages of rebirth.

"The commonality is there's a strong interest in trying to improve the area," says Terry Cullen, executive planner with the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.

Although most of the houses in the four neighborhoods are concrete block homes built from the 1940s to 1960s, Cullen says, there are pockets of very old homes, brand new homes and quite expensive homes.

Ballast Point, because of its proximity to Bayshore Boulevard and the water, is furthest along in its redevelopment. Streets are lined with large, pricey homes, some listing for more than $1-million.

Travel a little further west for affordable new construction and existing homes.

In just six months, Pulte Homes sold all 73 of its town homes under construction at Bayshore West, located on MacDill Avenue. The homes, with nearly 1,800 square feet, sold for about $180,000 each.

The hottest spot right now is Port Tampa, which until 1961 was a separate city from Tampa. It's one of the oldest parts of town with homes dating back to the late 1800s and red brick streets shaded by tall oaks creating a small-town atmosphere.

The area buzzes with new construction.

All-State Homes is building more than a dozen versions of a 1920s-style bungalow home in Port Tampa that start at $125,000. Available options for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,500-square-foot homes include hardwood floors, ceramic tiles, vaulted ceilings and detached garages.

Later this year, Keystone Homes plans to begin construction of 28 town homes at the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Interbay Boulevard. The two-bedroom, 21/2-bathroom Victorian-style town homes with about 1,200 square feet will start at $130,000, says Paul Wiezorek, director of sales for Keystone.

The real deals remain in the Gandy neighborhood bordered by West Shore Boulevard, Himes Avenue, Gandy and Interbay. Homes are still available for about $100,000, says Bill Geary, owner of Geary and Associates, a South Tampa real estate company. Geary says he recently sold a completed renovated, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,700-square-foot pool home in the area for $125,000.

"The Gandy neighborhood is a nice neighborhood and starting to get more attention because of the development pressures throughout the whole Interbay peninsula," Cullen says. "People are starting to notice it there, and the property is reasonably priced. You can see it's starting to happen. The interest is there and it's just going to continue to grow because land is in limited supply in the Interbay area."

Jim Bowen, division president for Pulte Homes, says he is on the prowl for property in the Gandy neighborhood where he can duplicate the success of the town homes his company sold in Ballast Point.

"It's going to happen," he says of the neighborhood's turnaround. "It's just a matter of who wants to be a pioneer."

If the people leading Gandy's renaissance would be called pioneers, then it might make sense to call Bob Hart, a longtime member of the Gandy Civic Association, an explorer.

Hart moved into the neighborhood in 1978 -- impressed by its easy access to Dale Mabry Highway, Bayshore Boulevard and the Gandy Bridge -- but since then, he's found little need to leave.

"We chose this particular neighborhood because in about 15 or 20 minutes you could be wherever you want to be," he says.

"But there's not a lot of reason to go any place else."

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