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Sometimes price and purity collide

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 5, 2002

WOOD YOU PLEASE: New Millennial Homes has launched a line of bungalow-style homes designed to blend into the Old Seminole Heights neighborhood.

The bungalows comply with the recently introduced guidelines for new construction in Old Seminole Heights. Among other things, they include front porches and ribbon driveways made of two strips of concrete.

Bill Duvall, president of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association, says he's glad to see new homes that architecturally suit the neighborhood, "But we're not there yet."

His complaint?

The New Millennial Homes are concrete block with stucco made to look like wood siding. Duvall, an admitted purist and preservation enthusiast, wants to see homes made of wood.

New Millennial Homes managing partner Michael Shrenk says the concrete block eliminates termite problems.

"For maintenance reasons people prefer cement block homes in Florida," Shrenk says.

Duvall says, "That's a cop-out."

Shrenk just wants to sell houses, Duvall claims.

And selling them, he is.

In the past six months, New Millennial built 15 bungalow-style homes and all but four have been sold, says Shrenk.

The new homes are substantially more affordable than the neighborhood's historic homes, which sell in many cases for well over $200,000. Shrenk's three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,200-square-foot homes sell for about $90,000. A four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with 1,500 square feet sells for about $100,000. Inside, they have open floor plans and vaulted ceilings.

Despite Duvall's complaints, the affordability can be seen as a good thing in an era when affordable housing has become an issue.

Even President Bush thinks so. He declared last month National Homeownership Month and announced a new housing agenda intended to increase the supply of affordable homes.

But Duvall won't give up. Even though the concrete block construction complies with the neighborhood guidelines, Duvall says he'll continue to pressure Shrenk to switch to wood.

Established in 1998, New Millennial Homes specializes in affordable homes built on in-fill lots throughout Hillsborough County. Last year, the company was the number one builder in the city of Tampa in terms of housing starts, according to the Builders Association of Greater Tampa.

SPEAKING OF AFFORDABLE (NOT!): Woodshed Development has announced the builders for its 115 home sites at Wellington Manor, a new community in Lutz where the homes won't do anything to advance President Bush's affordable housing agenda.

Hannah-Bartoletta and David Weekley will build homes on the 3/4-acre lots that will start in the high $300,000 range.

Hannah-Bartoletta is slated to construct 41 contemporary and traditional style homes with about 3,000 square feet of living space, says the company's sales manager Cheryl Ferris. David Weekley Homes will put up 74 homes with 2,800 to 4,000 square feet, says Weekley's division president Steve Ebensberger.

HOW LONG TILL IT'S GONE: More than 60 percent of the homes sold in Hillsborough County in May were on the market for less than three months, the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors reports.

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