REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Mixing it up: Old touches dress up modern re-do


ADDRESS: 802 Nalle Street


ASKING: $468,000

ASSESSMENT: $120,300 (assessed before renovation)


SIZE: 2,250 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.99 acres

CURB APPEAL: 9 of 10

LISTED BY: Ellen Pratt, Keller Williams 989-7068

Several years ago, in a review of a group of three houses on Fifth Street SW, we noted, "The cold wind of 'positive urban renewal,' more commonly known as gentrification... is nowhere more evident than in the two-square-block area around... this 0.17-acre lot where Dice Street meets Fifth" ["Chilly blasts: Winds of change shake Fifeville," January 15, 2004]. 

Anyone who's familiar with that area knows that developments like Walker Square, the Cream Street 10, Oak Grove Cottages, and UVA students' "ecoMod" renovations have indeed been a breeze that's changing the neighborhood from affordable working class to high-end and pricey. And the change is also affecting houses up and down streets leading to that area– notably King Street, Grove Street, Nalle Street, and Dice itself.

This early twentieth-century "farm house" on Nalle Street is a prime example. The original one-over-one structure with narrow stairway was enlarged with a two-story addition and side hall around 1920. A decade later, according to information from the agent, a third set of two-story rooms (a kitchen below and bedroom above) went on the back. When the current owners bought it, the place was known in the neighborhood as the "refrigerator house" for the many old iceboxes littering the collapsing front porch– and in fact, the house had been condemned by the City as unsound. 

Now, however, after a total ground-up re-do by Gate Pratt of Limehouse Architects, the place is ready to begin the new century as a hot property instead of an icebox repository– not a brassy new hot property, but a refined hot property with a foot still firmly in the past courtesy of recycled and reclaimed elements from other houses near and far.

Pratt reports that the foundation was lifted and all footers and supports replaced. Many original heart pine and oak floors were refinished and supplemented with more floors salvaged from a classic house in Amherst County. The iron fence surrounding the front yard surrounded the Albemarle County Courthouse before the Court Square renovation a couple of years ago. A sideboard from the Amherst County place takes up an entire wall of the dining room. And last but not least, pretty front doors with stained glass surrounding big glass windows were brought across Main Street from an Anderson Street demolition.

All this recycling and reusing and creative design is exciting and laudable. But how does it present as a finished product? 

A pretty house with beautiful wood, new windows, many French doors (even a pair in a bedroom), architectural novelties like the sideboard, an exposed fireplace "nook" in the center bedroom upstairs– very appealing and cozy– a big kitchen/master bedroom addition with a cantilevered second-floor deck, and superb tile work in both full baths. On-demand hot water is another plus, in our book.

But at the same time... strange old light fixtures (two weirdly hanging over the stairway), a design decision with the rear addition that created an awkward little do-si-do entry (up two stairs) to the new master bedroom from the landing, mismatched countertops in the kitchen– one pretty marble one on an island (with the sink, which faces into the dining room instead of into the kitchen or out a window, another odd choice)– and granite over the counters. The two fireplaces have been "restored"– that means left as they were (coal burners, not currently working)– and an unadorned concrete block wall holding up the driveway necessitated by Nalle Street's steep drop-off.

Across the driveway is a duplex that the same owners are offering for $289,000– they've paired the parcels so that they share the hiked-up driveway, and they've secured permission for construction of buildings in the backyard of each for a one-car garage and apartment. Gorgeous views of Carter and Brown's Mountains from the master bedroom and deck require the good will of neighbors not to build view-blockers, so being able to control some building around the place is a plus.

Nalle Street is indeed feeling the winds of change– renovations are under way in every direction. So there's probably not much worry about this place holding its value (although whether the asking price reflects its "value" is up to buyers, of course). Accessible to downtown, the Corner, and the UVA hospital, with off-street parking and modest ground for garden or foundation plants, for people who like a salad of history mixed with "green," it could be a find.


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