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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A garagemahal is a home where the garage (often a 3-car garage or more) dominates the front view of the house. I don’t know that the word applied to townhomes that may have only a one car garage, but the point is the same when you see the garage but not the entrance and no other facade than the garage. The word comes from the Taj Mahal, so there’s a bit of irony in that most of these garagemahals have none of the majesty of the originating building. We have to assume that somewhere behind the garages, there IS a house.
The opposite to this is a development such as Dolphin Cay, where the single family homes (other than the waterfront homes) are designed to be pedestrian-friendly, generally with a front porch. The garages are behind the homes, unobtrusive, and occasionally with living space above the garage – a home office, a guest suite, a recreation room.
The Old Northeast, a popular neighborhood in St Petersburg that is close to downtown, is pedestrian friendly, which adds to its appeal. Some of the homes in the Old Northeast date back to the 1910s – others are still being built, though generally on lots that previously had homes. Characteristic of the neighborhood, garages are typically behind the house, with alley access. The front porches encourage neighbors to know one another, as you’re much more likely to chat if one of you is on the porch and the other is on the sidewalk walking by. People are unlikely to walk up to your house and ring the doorbell just to say, Hello! When you’re within sight of one another, it’s only natural to nod, wave or strike up a conversation.
Hint: if you want to get to know your neighbors, take a dog out for a walk (yours or one that’s borrowed) – just remember that they’ll know your dog before they know you.
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