I searched for months for the perfect house for Norma in Seminole Heights. Born in Ybor City, she grew up in Seminole Heights and tells delightful tales of her childhood here. After rearing her family in South Tampa, she was ready to return, and we need her. She’s an artist and a Master Gardener. A warm and lovely person, she would be an asset to the neighborhood.
Norma wanted a special house, with a large porch, a nice size yard in which to create an oasis, and original features. At the age of 70, she didn’t feel able to do a great deal of construction work on her house and therein lays the difficulty. The majority of rehabbed houses did not meet her standard of quality in workmanship. Many poor bungalows had their porches enclosed. Others have had their wood windows replaced with vinyl clad. Norma’s grim response to these - “Keep driving.”
We saw several that look like they were in the last stages of leprosy. Painted with not a lick of prep, they will be peeling with a year, and now have yet another layer that will need to be scraped.
Looking in the windows, we cringed at wood floors swimming in finish puddles over horrid sanding gouges. We nearly wept when we saw historic fabric destroyed to make a pass-through from the kitchen to the dining room. It is a great feature in a 50’s ranch-style house, but appears as a gaping wound in the dining room wall of a bungalow. A house like this would be expected to stay on the market much longer than would one with a more period inspired kitchen.
An area like ours, in a period of Renaissance, is a magnet for investors. Many contribute to the neighborhood and in fact, fuel resurgence by their courageous investments. They respect the homes, the history and the future property owners by doing their homework in order to find out what these old houses really mean. They keep the historic fabric intact, don’t add oddball features appropriate to architecture from other decades, and rehab houses with an eye for quality.
The Seminole Heights Design Guidelines, aided in creation by people on our own neighborhood provide a wealth of information that can and should be used in or out of the historic district. They prescribe the handling of character defining features and historic materials that are highly desirable to someone wanting to purchase and live in an old house, and protect their investment.
My plea to rehabbers is that they should all do high quality, historically sensitive projects. In today’s market, it could mean the difference between the property selling, or sitting on the market, dropping in price, for months. Most importantly, our neighborhood deserves it.
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