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These new houses celebrate old styles

Some builders aim for more traditional designs like bungalows and homes with front porches or the "Hyde Park look."

Published February 13, 2004

Bob Rocke searched more than a year for the perfect vintage Hyde Park bungalow to buy.

Finally, he found it - on an empty lot on Hills Avenue.

Rocke, who has lived in a townhouse on Harbour Island for three years, decided recently to build an old-style home from the ground up.

"The challenge has been trying to find the old bungalow style without having to invest an enormous amount of money in rehabilitation," Rocke said.

When he realized he'd have to spend at least $100,000 more than the purchase price just to get an old home ready for move-in, he opted to make a fresh start. In the end, he'll have a charming exterior along with a house built with an open floor plan and the latest energy efficiency techniques.

"I get all the benefits of the new home and still get to have that bungalow style," he said.

Rocke hired Karyn Sbar and Karim Tahiri, owners of Soleil Design Build, to handle the reproduction.

"The only new homes that we have built in Hyde Park are bungalows," said Sbar, whose company has been building in Tampa for 10 years. "What I find most amazing is that people always think they're not new."

Rocke is one of a growing number of people with a hankering for homes characteristic of Tampa's older neighborhoods, such as Hyde Park and Seminole Heights.

After decades of churning out so-called Florida contemporary homes - one-story boxes sided with stucco in neutral colors - several builders are lining the streets of subdivisions with more traditional looks.

Westfield Homes markets new homes in the suburbs as having a "Hyde Park look," hoping to capitalize on the popularity of South Tampa neighborhoods. Inland Homes has added a front porch onto some of its more mundane models throughout the county, and MiraBay, a waterfront community in south Hillsborough County, boasts "Old Florida Coastal" styles.

"It's an interesting phenomenon," said Joseph Narkiewicz, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association. "The buyers, they'll see a design they like in a traditional setting, but don't necessarily want to be in a traditional community."

Many buyers, Narkiewicz said, want a new home in a subdivision with large lots, a swimming pool, clubhouse and other amenities typical in the suburbs.

They also don't want to pay city prices.

"We started to get a lot of people of different demographics who really liked the style of the South Tampa homes but, because of the (lack of) affordability in South Tampa, weren't able to take advantage of it," said David Pelletz, division vice president for Westfield Homes.

Now Westfield offers those models in Reflections in Lutz and FishHawk Ranch in Lithia.

One model in FishHawk features a front porch with stout columns mounted on pedestals, multipaned windows with wide casing and a double-gable roof. But the interior of the four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,216-square-foot home is thoroughly modern, with recessed can lighting, a two-car garage, and a double-vanity and walk-in closet in the master bathroom. The home is priced from $173,000, including the land.

Try finding a bungalow for that price in Hyde Park.

Hyde Park Builders got its start in Hyde Park and has a huge portfolio of bungalow and verandah style homes built on lots in South Tampa. But the company is taking that look to the suburbs as well. They're slated to build bungalow-style villas in FishHawk's Garden District.

"It's a return to traditional architecture, which was prevalent for the last hundred years. It's always been there. It's just a return, in the same way there's a return to so many other values in society," said Scott Shimberg of Hyde Park Builders.

In South Tampa, it's more a matter of blending in. There, as old houses come down, new ones that look old go up in their place. While the Mediterranean-style homes remain the most popular, the bungalows have their fans, say builders.

"Buyers want a home that looks like it's always been there," Shimberg said. "It would be out of place to build that Florida contemporary style in South Tampa, where every other house has that old look."

Florida created the stucco box, he said, to accommodate the flood of newcomers.

"It was the cheapest way to put as much square footage as possible under a roof," Shimberg said. And those homes, builders say, aren't about to disappear.

"There is a market for both," said Westfield's Pelletz. "One of the issues with the bungalow style homes is because of the exterior detailing, they cost a little more to build and therefore to buy."

- Janet Zink can be reached at 661-2441 or

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