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Old Florida features grace new houses

In the suburbs, home buyers can get traditional touches with new-home efficiency and bargain prices.

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 in Hyde Park.

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

He 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, but built with the latest energy efficiency techniques and open floor plans.

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

Westfield Homes markets new homes in the suburbs as offering a "Hyde Park look," hoping to capitalize on the popularity of south Tampa neighborhoods, and Inland Homes has slapped a front porch onto some of its models throughout the county. Westchase's West Park Village came out several years ago with neo-traditional styles. MiraBay, a waterfront community in south Hillsborough County, boasts "Old Florida Coastal" housing.

"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 brand new home in a subdivision with large lots, a swimming pool, clubhouse and other amenities typical in the suburbs.

Westfield Homes added bungalows with dormer windows and large front porches framed by squat columns to its product line three years ago in VillaRosa.

"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. A four-bedroom Old Florida home in the Lamplighter village sells for about $200,000. Try finding a bungalow for that price in Hyde Park.

Westfield follows the theme through with the interior design of the models. Although the floor plans are contemporary, with open kitchens that overlook casual living areas, the homes often boast claw foot tubs, wood ceilings, wainscoting and 1-inch tile on the bathroom floors.

While the bungalows have their fans, the Florida contemporary style remains a popular choice. The stucco box, Shimberg said, was created to accommodate the state's constant flood of newcomers.

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

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