Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Gays Raise Property Values - No Duh!

The Tampa Tribune had an article Monday "Gay Influx Into Neighborhood Tends To Raise Property Values". Well no DUH! This is no secret.

Seminole Heights was one of the neighborhoods featured in the article.

Given this trend, that gays and other DINK's (Double Income No Kinds) raise an area from blight, should it be an economic policy of the City and the County to encourage Gays and DINKs to move into blighted areas. Should there be tax breaks and other incentives? Special loans?

I could just imagine Republican bro-business/economic groups going to County Commission asing for a economic Gay and DINK Pride policy. How interesting that would be.

Here is the whole article as Trib's links disappear after a while.

Aug 1, 2005

Gay Influx Into Neighborhood Tends To Raise Property Values

Photo by: FRED FOX
David Purnell (right) carries a plate of food at his home in Tampa. He and his partner Steve Johns were the dinner hosts for friends and neighbors.

TAMPA - Another drug deal, Jeff Norman thought, stopped in 15th Street traffic, watching a kid on a bike pass a baggie to a man in an old Caddy. Another day in Seminole Heights paradise.
The kid turned to Norman. ``[Mess] with me and I'll kill you,'' he threatened.

Norman would remember sitting exposed in his red Sunfire convertible, that incident with the kid one more on top of yelling at guys puffing joints behind his house, finding prostitutes' underwear there in the morning, listening to neighbors scream profanities in the middle of the night.

Instead of reconsidering his decision to move from St. Petersburg to southeast Seminole Heights, he would finish what he had started on the dilapidated 1925 bungalow purchased in 2000. Norman, now 42, and other gay homeowners rushed in where so many others feared to buy.

Norman's property value has tripled from the $49,000 he paid five years ago. He became a full-time property investor in 2003, the same year southeast Seminole Heights was named USA Neighborhood of the Year.

And the real estate agents were watching. They know the trend.

They put up their ``For Sale'' signs while whispering the worst-kept secret in real estate: Buy it fast once gays move in, because prices will soar.

It happened at Logan Circle in Washington, Midtown Atlanta, Chicago's Boystown. And it's happening in Tampa.

Tampa ranks 26th out of 49 metropolitan areas with populations exceeding 1 million people in the ``Gay Index'' - a measure of the concentration of gays used in Robert Florida's 2002 book, ``The Rise of the Creative Class.'' The book examines creativity as an economic driving force and names gays as a barometer of a city's creativity.

Creative Tampa Bay Inc., a nonprofit group inspired by the book, works to foster that creative climate in Tampa. President Peter Kageyama stresses gays aren't the only ones rejuvenating neighborhoods. It's also artists, college- educated young professionals and DINKS - dual-income households with no kids, Kageyama said.

But gays, simply by living in same-sex households and often displaying pride symbols, happen to be the most recognizable group.

They're the ones real estate agents talk about, and everyone has a theory.

Diverse Reasons

It boils down to financial freedom, said Aaron Berger, a real estate agent with the CDR Group of Keller Williams Realty. ``Frankly, they have a lot of money,'' Berger said. ``They don't have a lot of children, so they have a little more disposable income.''

Greg Burton, a real estate consultant with Realty Executives in St. Petersburg, said gays look for neighborhoods with architectural interest and proximity to downtown culture - shops, restaurants and parks.

But Brian Longstreth, a real estate agent with Your Neighborhood Realty Inc. in St. Petersburg, thinks the gentrification trend is more complex. ``Some of the criteria they use are different from straight people with children, and I think the biggest one is crime,'' Longstreth said. ``They don't have to worry about their children or their schools.''

Before launching a project, one national developer visits the prospective site in search of his bellwether - rainbow flags, the classic gay pride symbol.

Bob Silverman, a trustee with the Urban Land Institute - a nonprofit real estate forum that tackles land use practices - has been speaking about gay urban pioneers since the 1990s. Chairman of the Winter Group of Companies from Atlanta, Silverman turns run-down historic buildings into loft apartments and offices.

Gays ``are not afraid of diversity, when what some people see as an unsafe neighborhood is one with Latinos or African-Americans,'' Silverman said in a telephone interview from Greenville, S.C.

Real estate agents here say Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights are today's hot landing spots for gay urban pioneers. But it all began in Hyde Park, now an upper-class area with a shopping village.

`A Tolerant Place'

Leesa Moore, 44, moved to Hyde Park in 1989. While her friends were renting sparkling new apartments north of downtown for a pittance, Moore settled for the first floor of a bungalow so she could be in the city.

Back then, lawns weren't perfectly pruned with security system signs popping up between the tulips. There were no condos, and plenty of the homes hadn't been renovated.

Moore, a self-employed real estate agent and Rhode Island native, remembers the familiar homeless man on the corner of Morrison and Howard avenues, neighbors growing fresh herbs on DeLeon Street, the ``Hyde Park Zoo'' house on the corner of Packwood and Inman avenues, which was filled with animals and falling into disrepair.

``I miss the characters,'' she said, sitting in her home around the corner from Tampa Bay. She and her partner, Carolyn Kurtz, bought the place in 1998 and fixed it up piece by piece. They took down the partition in the living room that had divided two families. And they took down the air conditioner that sat atop the roof.

They couldn't afford to buy the house today, now that Hyde Park has exploded into a distinct community with all the necessities, plus a movie theater, fine dining and rows of boutiques. Moore knew this place was hip before the developers caught on, but that's not the only reason she moved there.

``To get into the less than lovely part of our lives, the gays are used to being in dangerous situations,'' she said, remembering sneers in an Ocala restaurant and trekking through dangerous parts of town to get to gay bars in both Rhode Island and Florida.

Moore landed in her current neighborhood because, she said, ``Hyde Park seemed like a tolerant place.'' Neighbors don't seem to care about two women living together and raising a 4-year-old boy.

That welcoming attitude is one of the most noticeable trends in these up-and- coming neighborhoods, where neighbors are more than what they drive or where they work.

Finding Common Ground

Tampa Heights couple David Purnell and Steve Johns meet up with their neighbors at semimonthly porch parties and with their old neighbors from Old Seminole Heights every Wednesday for family dinner night.

The neighbors come bearing pizza, sushi, fruit and cake. They introduce husbands, wives, partners and children and talk about work and family and the neighborhood. Those who have lived there for years have been through a lot together.

For two years beginning in 2001, 15 or so neighbors would gather Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between midnight and 4 a.m. for what Johns, an extroverted public-speaking instructor, liked to call ``the hoe down.'' They'd drive down Nebraska Avenue together, shining flashlights on prostitutes trying to work and writing down their customers' license plate numbers.

Living in an up-and-coming neighborhood fosters that community pride and closeness. If all the houses are brand new, there's no need to ask neighbors for referrals to good roofers or plumbers, said Purnell, 41.

``The thing that brings people together is property, the common interest in making it better,'' said Johns, 43. ``Then we come together and think, `Oh my God, I like you' about people we would not have spoken to otherwise.''

Purnell and Johns' surroundings are full of people who look nothing like them. A colorful banner hangs on the front of their house, a sage Victorian trimmed in amber and yellow: ``Tampa Heights. Established 1898. National Historic District.''

They live directly across North Florida Avenue from a red brick building with its own sign: ``Metropolitan Ministries. Providing answers for poor and homeless families. Faithfully.''

Within three blocks of Purnell and Johns' home, a Baptist church shines a neon cross over North Florida Avenue, and a sign outside a Hindu mandir on Palm Avenue asks visitors to remove their shoes and turn off their cell phones and pagers.

While strong community is one common thread in these growing neighborhoods, diversity is another. These neighborhoods aren't black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, young or old, though they once might have been.

Corey Thomas, who has been working as park director at Robles Park in Tampa Heights for 17 years, has watched this place change. The park sits between I-275 and one-story homes with fenced yards. The peach-colored project down Avon Street is its next-door neighbor.

Thomas sees project kids and Tampa Heights kids, and now gay couples taking a stroll through.

``Once upon a time, 10 years ago, when gays came over here, a lot of people would talk,'' Thomas said, his gold tooth catching the fluorescent lighting. ``Now, nobody seems to notice.''

Reporter Allyson Bird can be reached at (813) 259-7827.

This story can be found at: http://news.tbo.com/news/MGBPR085UBE.html


Uppity Gal said...

We are FAMILY! I got all my brothers and sisters with me.

Diversity is KEY. Tolerance is so important.

BE PROUD to live in Seminole Heights!

AngelSil said...

DINKs represent, y0!


Where's my tax break?

Perspective of Pete said...

That article needs to be forwarded about a thousand times to the County Commission

Shawn said...

Something the author of the article didn't touch on too heavily is why gays and lesbians choose neighborhoods like these. She hinted at it under the heading "A tolerant Place" but didn't quite drive it home.

A large factor in why gay and lesbian homebuyers move into sleepy, blighted areas is because they are safer for us than your normal middle-class suburb.

As one gay man who's had his home vandalized on several occasions (in my previous state) I had no desire to live anywhere near the mostly white suburbs. Seminole Heights was described to me as the "new up-and-comming" gay neighborhood. (And oh how I hate the "up-and-comming" phrase. Ugh.) This was all I needed to know. A place where I could live and not worry as much about being bashed in my own neighborhood.

What makes Seminole Heights different than many of the older, famous gay neighborhoods before it (Castro, Christopher St, etc) is that there is enough acceptance these days that progressive straight folk move into the area with us from the beginning. You can't imagine how much I value that.

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