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Sunshine Skyway Bridge reopened after record closed time

Sunshine Skyway Bridge St Petersburg

Photo courtesy of City of St Petersburg


The Sunshine Skyway Bridge reopened at 3 a.m. today after being closed since Sunday at 4 p.m. This is a record length of time for the bridge to be closed – the prior record was approximately 8 hours during Tropical Storm Gabrielle in 2001. Two work days without the bridge is a major inconvenience for commuters, turning a 30 minute commute into one 3 times that long. Over 50,000 vehicles cross the Skyway daily. High winds were the reason for the closure, resulting from Tropical Storm Debby.

The Howard Frankland Bridge (I-275) and the Courtney Campbell  also had partial or full closures. Reminder: if there’s a hurricane warning and if you’re going to evacuate – do it early, before most of the evacuation routes are closed due to bridge closures!





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New Property Tax Exemption

Beginning in 2011 there is a new property tax exemption for certain deployed military personnel.  The deadline to file for this is June 1, 2011. (In future years it will be March 1st, but this year the bill was not passed until after that deadline.)

You may qualify if you’re

  • a service member who currently receives a homestead exemption, AND
  • who was deployed during 2010 on active duty outside the US, Alaska or Hawaii, AND
  • who served in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom or New Dawn.

For more information, visit the Pinellas Property Appraiser site.    You can download the Deployed Military Exemption Application.

To all deployed military personnel:  Thank You for serving!

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Do we repurpose large homes in St Petersburg and Pinellas County?

Do we repurpose large homes in St Petersburg and Pinellas County when they don’t sell? Sometimes dropping the price isn’t enough to sell a home (though there’s ALWAYS a price at which a house will sell) because buyers don’t want or can’t afford the maintenance and carrying costs.  If  large homes are left empty and not maintained, they become a blight on the neighborhood. What’s to be done with them?

This isn’t a new problem; history tends to repeat itself. Look at the large homes in the Old Northeast, particularly those closer to downtown. Many large homes were built in the 1910s and 1920s that later became rooming houses or were divided into several small rental units. Over the past several years many of these have been made back into single family homes – but we’re facing many much larger homes that have been built around the county.

An article from last fall Reinventing the McMansion gave some options, ranging from adding a business use to renting rooms to group facilities. One advantage mentioned for the typical McMansion is that each bedroom typically has its own en-suite bathroom, and perhaps a sitting room or snack kitchen as well. Often there are restrictions from zoning ordinances or subdivision restrictions.  My thought is that perhaps the very large homes could be divided into condos or townhomes. As a neighbor, would you rather have an abandoned property, short term rentals, an institution, or homeowners? Often these homes have garages for several vehicles, so dividing the property wouldn’t necessarily mean on-street parking.

Some people believe that when the economy turns around, we’ll return to life as it was.  Well, the economy will  certainly recover, but I don’t think that means returning to life as it was. If you want to look ahead, I’d suggest reading Richard Florida’s book “The Great Reset“.

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Wedding Bells Indeed

Newly Married - after successful sale of properties

Newly Married - after successful sale of properties

Earlier this year we had a sign rider made for a home for sale, Wedding Bells.  We wanted prospective buyers to know that this was a happy house and a happy sale – and also wanted to add a touch of mystery. What do they mean by that? Two of our friends/clients were planning to marry, but first we had to sell her house and his condo so they could buy a new home together.

House sold! Condo sold! Monday we closed the ALVA International real estate office so that all of us could attend their wedding at Ft. DeSoto Park.

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Google names The Simms Team at ALVA International a Favorite Place!

Google Maps Favorite Place for ALVA International Inc real estate

Google Maps Favorite Place for ALVA International Inc real estate

Google named The Simms Team at ALVA International a Favorite Place. This week google began distributing Favorite Place window stickers to 100,000 of the most popular business in its database. When you see this sticker in our window at 238 Beach Drive NE or in any other business window, you can use a code-scanning application on your phone to look up that business – the hours, company information, photos, web site, phone number and more – and either save it on your phone or e-mail it to a friend. Google has blogged about this new way to window shop.

Here’s where you can see the listing for The Simms Team at ALVA International. It includes a place where you can write a review of your experience with the Simms Team and ALVA.

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Florida ranked #3 state on happiness level

LiveScience just released a survey on which states you’d be happiest living in – Florida ranked #3 state on happiness level, according to an article on Yahoo today. Rankings were #1 Louisiana and #2 Hawaii. The linked article discusses the criteria they used.

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It’s hurricane season in Florida – Ana is the first named storm for 2009

Hurricane season here is from June 1 to November 30 but we don’t really start thinking about it until there’s a named storm. Today we have the first named storm of the 2009 season, Ana. Rather than watch the hype on weather stations, I prefer to check the advisories on the web at the National Hurricane Center.

Not sure how to prepare for a hurricane? Check out the 2009 Hurricane Guide at the St Pete Times.  My husband, George, likes to track each named storm and hurricane on a tracking chart, with points from each advisory. You can download a tracking chart from this site if you want to do the same.

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Banks getting slower at processing loans

We’re seeing more instances of banks that are “ignoring” the closing dates on contracts – not all of them, but enough to be a concern. Other agents are reporting delayed closings as well. Sometimes the day before the scheduled closing the lender will ask for more information from the buyer – sometimes the lender will just say that they didn’t “get to it” and delay it a week, and then another week. Lesson 1: it’s not over until it’s closed.  Lesson 2: have a contingency plan in case the closing is delayed.

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The future of suburbia

Michael Cannell of FastCompany.com wrote a thought provoking article called Suburbia R.I.P. in which he sees some suburbs as graveyards of homes. He blames the decline on gas prices and the economy giving people less money to spend. I don’t see St Pete’s subdivisions as the suburbia he describes, but I do see people who bought 30-45 minutes away, in Manatee County, for example, moving back to St. Pete. They bought because they could get bigger, newer homes there for less money – but the price of gas and the time on the road have taken their toll. Many homeowners  who are now upside-down in their homes have moved back and are renting here in Pinellas.

The St Pete Times wrote of some new subdivisions in Hillsborough County and Pasco County where occupied homes are in the minority, and may be living among overgrown lots and deserted homes. In some areas McMansions have been divided up into multifamily dwellings (don’t know that our single family zoning would allow that).

Despite the high inventory of available condos, more people are opting for downtown living, where they can walk instead of drive, and where they’re surrounded by a wide variety of people and places.

Buying a new home? Consider whether a neighborhood has staying power.

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Overvue condos in St Petersburg revert to retirement community

The Northshore, an assisted living community at 939 Beach Drive NE in St Petersburg was a desirable “cruise ship on land” that was sold to be converted into condominiums. I know it was desirable because my mother lived there. The residents were ousted, and construction began on Overvue, 72 condo residences, some with wonderful water views. Alas, none of them had balconies. Then …

The economy hit, and hit hard.  Overvue wasn’t able to sell enough condos to complete the project.

Its neighbor, Westminster Communities of Florida, at 830 Northshore Drive NE in St Petersburg, recently bought the building from the bankruptcy court for $9 million. Westminster will convert the high-rise back to retirement living, with 135 apartments for active seniors. The $15 million of revenue bonds will finance both the purchase and the renovations. It’s expected to be ready for occupancy by the beginning of 2010.

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