Unlike Florida’s Key West, the Albemarle County subdivision of the same name has no Sloppy Joe’s, Margaritaville or Hemingway House. But it does have a Swim & Tennis Club, miles of walking of trails, and easy access to town.
In the 1700s, John Key Sr. received a tract of land situated east of the Rivanna River through a royal grant. According to the Albemarle County Historical Society, Key built a manor home on the western portion of his property and named it Key West. The original home did not survive, though a later residence was constructed on the property and given the same name.
Key West is now a community of approximately 200 houses, four of which are currently offered for sale, including Joseph Connor’s house at 103 Vincennes Road.
“Key West is awesome!” says Connor, who first moved to the neighborhood in 1992. “The community pool is great, there are walking trails along the river, there are large lots, and not every house is exactly the same. And it’s not a pass-through kind of neighborhood. When you come to Key West, you either live here or you’re visiting someone who lives here.”
“We have city water now, which has been a great improvement,” Connor adds. “It feels like we’re in the country, but we’re close in– just 10 minutes to town.”
Though his enthusiasm about the community is apparent, Connor, who plans to move to another home in Key West, sees some potential drawbacks, too. In his opinion, the age and condition of some of the houses could deter buyers, though he is quick to add that a talented architect can help. “Creative additions and changes can make big improvements to exterior and interior appeal,” he says.
Membership in the Key West Neighborhood Association isn’t mandatory and residents are not required to adhere to standards of upkeep and maintenance.
“There are loosely held restrictions,” Connor says. “And there are pluses and minuses to that. We’re not as restrictive as other subdivisions. If you want that kind of restriction, you want to go somewhere else. But if you’re interested in a place like Glenmore, you’re probably not going to be interested in Key West anyway.”
Daphne Spain, a former president of the Association and reigning Luminary Queen explains. “Membership in the Association is voluntary for both renters and homeowners. The dues, which are $25 per year, help cover the cost of the Spring Fling, the 4th of July parade, and a fall get-together,” she says. "Membership in the swim and tennis club is additional."
Dues also cover the cost of planting and mowing the common areas, but the community garden– like the swim and tennis club– is available only to members.
The luminary sale, which Spain has coordinated for several years, thus earning her queenly status, is a fundraiser that benefits the Association.
Amy Eichenberger, another Key West resident and the architect who masterminded the remodel of Connor’s home, is also a fan of her neighborhood. “The people are wonderful, and the lots are pretty,” she says, agreeing with Connor about the condition of some of the homes. “There’s an eclectic mix of homes," she says, "and some of them are rather dated.”
Brady Bunch-era homes aren’t the only drawback, in Eichenberger’s opinion.
“It would be nice to have a bike trail,” she says. “To connect to the other trails in the area, we have to ride out on Route 20, which is rather treacherous.”
Over the past two years, there’ve been 10 sales in Key West ranging in price from $227,000 to $622,500, a fact that may bode well for those four homeowners with houses currently on the market.
For Connor, this brings mixed emotions.
“Key West is a very well-kept secret, and I kind of don’t want word about it to get out,” he says. “But then again, I am trying to sell my house.”