REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Downtown Tuley: Hip to be square on Second Street?


Address: 517 2nd St. NE

Neighborhood: North Downtown

Asking: $995,000

Assessment: $664,800

Year Built: 1990

Size: 2,414 Sq. ft.

Land: 0.09 acres

Agent: Robert Headrick, Summit Realty Company, (434) 817-4040

Curb Appeal: 8 out of 10

So you've pushed out the 2.5 kids and finally sent them on to that American bankruptcy factory we call college. Some parents will leave Junior's baseball trophies and Missy's blue ribbons forever enshrined in their childhood bedrooms, dusted occasionally but otherwise left intact. Other parents are looking to pack up and drive away from the picket fence forever. 

If you're an empty-nester looking for a new perch, it couldn't hurt to check out the house at 517 2nd St. At worst, you'll spend half an hour after Sunday brunch touring a home that could pass for an art gallery with gorgeous paintings on the walls. At best, you could find that the house is its own work of art, filled with light and oozing with livable modernity.

This North Downtown neighborhood is so popular among the well-heeled that a couple recently won permission from City Council to put an approximately 6,000-square-foot house next door.

The façade of this place may set some house-hunters aback. If you're used to the comfortably stolid brick houses of Charlottesville's suburbs, a narrow, boxy stucco and glass exterior could be off-putting and might look more like a condo than a house. But that's all part of the plan.

Designed in the International, or DeStijl, style by James Tuley in 1990, the house is surprisingly warm and livable for all of its slickster appeal.

The door of #517 opens up to a small entryway with a coat closet and a side room off to the left. It's currently being used as an upscale storage facility, but is plumbed, heated and cooled, which means that it could be renovated into a third bedroom and bathroom if the buyer wanted extra space for guests. 

A glistening maple staircase leads you up to the main floor, with six skylights creating a corridor of light. The main living space has an open floor plan perfect for entertaining, with the kitchen, dining room, and living room flawlessly flowing into one another, illuminated by large windows looking out onto this floor's two terraces. There's a small (very) half bath tucked into the corner of the kitchen, and the current owners have created an office out of the living room alcove that overlooks the staircase.

The upstairs living space is not quite as felicitous. The den, while it does have a wood-burning fireplace, feels a little cramped compared to the expansive downstairs. The den's large windows showcase a small, gem-like garden and a long hallway leads to a small bedroom and bathroom and the master bed and bath.

 The master bathroom has a big built-in tub, and the bedroom has a private terrace and the big windows that are ubiquitous in this house. But the bedroom feels a little odd due to the storage system that's currently in place— big bookshelves (which the owners plan to take with them) and an 18-foot-long series of cabinets in lieu of a closet. So there's plenty of space to stash Junior's trophies, but the system is a little dowdy for such a sophisticated space.

Aside from these gripes, #517 could be a perfect staging site for empty-nesters itching to reinvent themselves (or a swinging singles pad for any hipster with a cool million lying around).

The downtown location makes it easy to pick up a library book, a cup of joe, and a bouquet of flowers from Charlottesville's City Market. But at what price?

The sellers are currently asking for over $300,000 more than the house's assessed worth. Granted, the house has only been on the market for a few weeks, so the price may drop. But the agent says that the price is fair and was developed after comparison with recently sold downtown properties of similar square-footage. 

One downtown property is the colorful modernist concoction at 615 Kelly Avenue, complete with koi pond, (reviewed in this column in August, The mostest: Steel and glass create energy downtown), which is the reason the owners of #517 are selling the house they've owned for10 years. But the Kelly Avenue place, while farther away from the Mudhouse, is nearly twice the square footage of this one and has a bit more yard (0.3 acres versus 0.09).

The Kelly Avenue asking price is $995,000, exactly the same price tag as #517. Looks like the owners of #517 are looking to get more house for their money.

I can't say I blame them, but I can't say I'll bite. 



Each week, a brave local seller invites the Hook to provide an impartial, warts-and-all look at their real estate listing. E-mail yours today!