Few of the original houses remain and the new mansions are upwards of 20,000 square feet in highly desired Harbor Acres
On a recent sunny Thursday morning, Realtor Kim Ogilvie sat in a patio chair at her client’s home on Sarasota Bay and called out to other real estate agents who stopped by the open house.
“Hello! Have a look around! The show’s out here,” she said. “It’s all about the view. Isn’t it amazing?”
It’s one of the best in town. From the patio, and especially the upstairs master bedroom and balcony, one can see from Big Pass on the left to the Ringling Bridge and the Sarasota skyline on the right.
The house next door, also with outstanding views but with less of an aspect of downtown, sold for $5.25 million three years ago, and soon was torn down.
Ogilvie and her clients, Joe and Debbie Angeleri, have taken their better views into account in pricing their repeatedly remodeled, 1952 house for $7.5 million.
It’s in pristine condition — Joe Angeleri is a highly respected remodeling contractor — but it’s fairly small at 2,500 square feet, sits at grade level in a flood zone and is likely to become a tear-down. Ninety percent of the value is in the 0.6-acre lot.
Coupled with the new mansions just down the street, it speaks to the ascendancy of Hillview Drive on the short list of the premier streets in Sarasota.
Bay views from Hillview
The first grouping of luxurious streets — with houses, not condos — must include Westway Drive in Lido Shores, Casey Key Road, the west sides of Sanderling Club and Bay Shore roads, and Regents Court on Longboat Key.
Appraiser Don Saba includes Lodge Drive in Cherokee Park and North and South Lake Shore drives in Oyster Bay. South Shore Drive on the north bay is up there, too.
But Hillview Drive in Harbor Acres is giving each of them a run for the sizable pile of money it takes to live on any waterfront street in the county.
“Harbor Acres has always been solid,” said Saba, who is the recognized authority on Sarasota luxury property. “Once you’ve lived there,” he added, referencing the West of the Trail area, of which Harbor Acres is the crown jewel, “it’s hard to live anywhere else.”
“There was a time in the early 2000s when Westway had the big numbers,” said Ogilvie, who notched a $13.2 million sale there in 2003. “And they still have lots of things going on. But I don’t think you can argue with what’s going on with this strip of waterfront as being the most impressive.”
It’s called Hillview Drive because it’s a continuation of Hillview Street, as the southern entrance to Harbor Acres. The street goes uphill ever so slightly between Orange and Osprey avenues. Before Harbor Acres was dredged and filled after World War II, Hillview Street had a bay view.
There is no “good” or “bad” side of Hillview Drive, as it has water on both sides for nearly its entire length. The lots tend to be very large, with big front yards and long driveways. Some of the old houses have been remodeled, while others are new.
Even one of the few landlocked lots has a fine new house on it, for sale.
A golden peninsula
Farther west, the original, unobtrusive houses are disappearing and the mansions are going up, including one of more than 12,000 square feet with a “guard house” of 1,160 square feet.
Next to that is a Vista Lane house that local real estate experts consider one of the finest in the area, both in architecture and furnishings.
The difference in land values depend on the views. The south side of Hillview Drive has “bigger water,” while the north side has views of Harbor Acres’ “harbor,” with water that is more protected from storms.
The biggest views, and biggest land values, are at the end of Hillview Drive, along with its “tributaries,” Vista Drive and Vista Lane. Some of these properties have views that sweep from Big Pass to Bird Key to the Ringling Bridge to the downtown skyline.
Ogilvie watches this market closely, and has had several high-dollar sales in Harbor Acres. She sold a Paul Rudolph-designed 1950 house originally known as the “Burnette Residence” a couple of years ago for $5.25 million at the end of the street, with views out through Big Pass, and knew it was a teardown.
“I was somewhat surprised to see the land value hit that level,” said Saba.
The new owners are building an even bigger modernist house on that site. Guy Peterson is the architect and Michael Walker the builder, with Damien Blumetti, AIA, handling construction administration.
For such clients, “the view is the most important thing,” said Blumetti, “and also taking full advantage of the outdoor space as part of the program of the house.
“I don’t think you can get a bad view on Hillview.”
A few years ago, Ogilvie sold the modernist, 1997 Mollie Nelson home for $7 million, and the new owners promptly did a complete updating.
Around the corner, DSDG Architects has its sign on a lot where a house on the Harbor Acres boat basin recently was torn down. Hall Architects is the architect of record on a new modern on the south side of Hillview that is being built by Ball Construction. There are other empty lots awaiting new houses, and, for the few original houses from the 1940s and 1950s, “it is a matter of time,” Blumetti said. The lots are worth 10 times more than their houses.
“People want to be on the mainland and close to downtown,” Ogilvie said. Even people who want new mansions on the water.
Remodeled, again and again
The Angeleri home was built in 1954 but doesn’t look it. The well-regarded remodeling contractor remade the house for the first time in 1991, adding a second floor, and did about a dozen other major projects over the years, as he was using it both as his own home and a model to show to potential clients.
“I could live in it,” Ogilvie said.
But, it’s on grade, and it’s not getting any younger. A buyer who will pay anywhere near the $7.5 million listing price for the roomy site could tear down the house. It might even be likely in the effort to make the most of the lot.
That possibility pains Joe Angeleri.
“It is devastating to think of that,” he said. “Debbie and I had a choice in 1991 of tearing the house down and elevating, or remodeling it and staying on ground level. We had lived in the house for 8 years, and just couldn’t imagine living up in an elevated home. We were so used to just walking out the back door and going to the pool or the boat. It is a way of life.”
Said architect Mark Sultana, “Not everyone wants to have their homes elevated to the level we have to elevate them (per FEMA flood-zone regulations). Some people like to walk right out of their house at grade level. If you tear it down and build new, that goes away.”
Angeleri added, “I would only hope that someone would come along and realize that, yes, the land is very valuable, and yes, it probably has the best view on that street, and that if they played their cards right, they could live a long, healthy life there and enjoy Sarasota the way it is supposed to be enjoyed — on grade, with the pool and landscaping.
“If someone wants to tear it down, or it gets blown down or burns down, well, that is another issue. I can’t control who is going to buy it. I probably would not be able to convince someone to not tear it down.”
That scenario is typical for waterfront properties with old houses. But the tear-downs are in short supply in Harbor Acres. There are 37 properties on Hillview Drive, 35 of them waterfront. Just a few are original, on-grade ranches. Vista Drive and Lane has 10 properties, 9 on the water.
“That neighborhood has always been hot,” said Sultana, who is finishing up a design for a house on Vista Drive where the owner tore down a 1950s house. “Property values in there keep going up and up and up. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods because it has water access and is close to downtown.
“My first modern commission was on Harbor Drive. That house is now 17 years old.”
Other listings include 1449 Hillview Drive, a 1952 house that was updated in 2015 and is listed by Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker for $2.55 million; 1435 Hillview, a 4,876-square-foot house built in 1999 and updated in 2014, that is listed for $4.6 million by Phyllis Garfinkel of Michael Saunders & Company; and 1333 Vista Drive, a brand-new 5,768-square-footer, listed at $5.75 million by Peter Laughlin of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
Recent sales have been notable, according to Sarasota County records. To go with the $5.25 million sale of the Rudolph-Burnette house next to the Angeleris in 2016, Margaret Wise sold her mansion at 1233 Hillview Drive, on the other side of the Angeleris, for $9.85 million in January. She had remodeled the 1990 house, which sits on a magnificent 36,882-square-foot lot.