REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Let it be: Get a '60s fix downtown

ADDRESS: 708 Park Street


ASKING: $549,000

2005 CITY ASSESSMENT: $416,100


SIZE: 2,891 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.27 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Loring Woodruff McLean Faulconer 295-1131

People who've traveled Park Street over the years no doubt remember the most striking thing about this house at the corner of Lyons Court. It's not the fact that it's a quintessential 1950s "split foyer" rancher that sticks out– thanks to its two-tone yellow-white paint job– like a sore thumb among its classic brick neighbors.

It's the glorious rose garden– alas, long since demolished– that old-timers are likely to think of when this house is mentioned. The row of rose bushes marching along Park Street in a straight line perfectly complemented the house.

And while the new landscaping that has taken their place– shrubs, and what the agent calls "hardscaping" (seemingly random low brick walls and a Brazilian walnut deck)– is fine, somehow it just doesn't match as perfectly.

The inside has been gussied up a bit, too. In the back of the house, behind a paneled den, the owner has added a large master bedroom and adjacent sitting area or studio. We say "studio" because the space, which leads to the new deck through solid-pane French doors matching an original set in the den, has windows on all sides.

The windows would make this the brightest room in the otherwise surprisingly dark house, except for large "plantation shutters" that block a lot of the light. (Although they're obviously new and are certainly au courant, a new owner might consider deep-sixing them throughout the house since they weigh down an already oppressive interior.)

Apart from this large addition and a little garden shed out back, the owner has not altered the place. That means that original '60s bathrooms, with wonderful almost Deco-ish tiling, are intact. The tiny bathroom off the new bedroom addition, compact and well-designed, is all anyone needs– a square tiled shower with WC and sink in a separate little alcove-like room. Instead of a swanky new show-off Jacuzzi and marble sink, etc., etc., the owner, obviously a sensible sort, installed a laundry room.

Apart from the addition– which, like the original paneled den has wall-to-wall carpet– the house is just as the façade leads one to expect. Four steps up from the square entry foyer are a living room with picture window and fireplace, adjoining smallish dining room, and basic kitchen with laminate counters, maple cabinets, and what must be the teeniest dishwasher in town.

Down a step or two from the kitchen is a pass-through to the new laundry room past a large pantry that the owner, an artist, is using to store paints instead of provisions. (As we know, man does not live by bread alone.) That's it for the first floor– which has oak flooring everywhere except the den, entry, and addition.

Upstairs are three surprisingly large (and light) bedrooms and two more full baths, with more original tile– pink in one and an unusual aqua/slate blue combo in the other. With imaginative paint to spiff them up, these bathrooms could be wonderful retro showplaces, and we dare to hope that a new owner will capitalize on that fact. A large hall linen closet and sliding- or louver-door closets in each bedroom– all also with hardwood floors– round out the upstairs.

Mechanicals are new– the agent is particularly keen on the gas-fired radiant heat (as opposed to baseboard electric, which it looks like) and the new AC and standing-seam metal roof, although the latter seems an anachronism in a house built in 1965.

The price of the house seems reasonable considering its almost 3,000 square feet and location so close to Downtown and the By-pass. Off-street parking is another plus, as well as an enormous oak tree in the yard (but it can't make up for the roses).

Prospective buyers will no doubt immediately start thinking how they can upgrade and re-do things about the house that are obviously dated and/or out of fashion. But, taking our cue from the landscaping, we'd counsel moderation.

Sure, the kitchen can use some new counters and flooring. And maybe taking down the wall between the kitchen and the living room would help with light and flow.

But the rest of the house has its own charm, and we'd hope a new buyer would respect it. Even the big new bedroom– beautiful and all that– seems to sound a discordant note amid the old-school character of the place. It would be nice to think a new owner would be satisfied with that nod to modernity and flash, and leave the rest pretty much as it is.

There's something to be said, after all, for just letting a place be what it was meant to be.