REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Lots to love: Versatile downtown property offers options


Address: 512 North First Street #2

Neighborhood: North Downtown

Asking: $900,000 for house and lot or $1,350,000 for entire property

Assessment: $795,900 for house and lot or $947,100 for entire property 

Year Built: 1920

Size: 3,000 fin. sq. ft. / 285 unfin. 

Land: 0.38 acres (acreage includes both lots): 10,840ft2 + 7,528ft2

Agent: Tim Michel, McLean Faulconer Inc. 434-295-1131

Curb Appeal:  10 out of 10

While the Arts and Crafts movement is experiencing a resurgence, this place is no reinterpretation; it's the real deal.

Spanning two lots on a dead-end street within walking distance of the Downtown Mall, this charming stone house is situated on a steeply sloping property that has been terraced into four different levels. Landscaped with such amenities as a fishpond, artificial stream, fruit trees, and a rose arbor, the property has a staircase running through the middle that leads down to Second Street and a legal parking lot with five spots (allegedly bringing in $1,000 per month). 

The terraced landscape provides a beautiful, unobstructed view of downtown, which can be seen not just the upstairs guest bedroom but also from the downstairs study.

The house lot ends after the rose arbor on the second terrace, and while the owners will consider selling the two lots separately, they would prefer a single sale.

Not to be upstaged by the property, the house itself is that rare thing, a livable showstopper. Reportedly built in 1920 and thoroughly renovated in 2006 with a new roof, furnace, and wiring, it's filled with old-fashioned charm and modern conveniences.

True to the Arts and Crafts spirit, the house (which was also reviewed in 2006) has tons of built-in features, from the coat closet and letter chute in the entranceway to the tables and benches in the breakfast nook that fold up into the wall after the cereal's finished.

Warm both literally and figuratively, the house boasts two fireplaces: a gas-fired red-brick in the master bedroom and one in the large living room, where it's flanked by built-in desks. Painted in earth tones, it has lots of wood accents from the thin oak flooring to the built-in shelving. 

The homey living room gives way to a formal dining area with a china cabinet in one wall and a pass-through to the kitchen dominated by a shining, five-burner stainless steel stove backed by a wall of white tile with grey grout. The kitchen floor is slate, the counters are soapstone, backed by an original white marble backsplash, and with a second pass-through to the breakfast nook. 

There are so many thoughtful details that one wonders why no one thought about bathrooms. A half bath adjoins the downstairs study, but the three bedrooms upstairs all share one small bath. A dearth of bathrooms isn't uncommon in an older house, but their shortage is hardly conducive to family harmony. What parent wants to fight with the kids over a shower? 

The larger of the two smaller bedrooms overlooks the backyard and has a little extra storage space the agent claims could be turned into a bathroom, but we're not holding our breath.

What these rooms do have is storage space: plenty of closets and built-in shelving (one room has a 15-foot-long drawer). They're also larger than many bedrooms in older houses, especially the master.

Any space concerns might be addressed by reclaiming the two-bedroom, one-bathroom rental unit in the basement by unblocking a set of stairs.

With small windows and whitewashed walls, the basement is not as warm and welcoming as the rest of the house, but it does have a few cool features: a booze closet (left over from Prohibition), and a large living room with an ample fireplace and a cue closet for pool fiends. A new owner could charge $750-$1,000 for the apartment as it is now, which would go a long way to helping with property tax. 

So here are multiple options: buy the full property or just the lot with the house. Keep the rental unit or incorporate it into the house. Use the garage for a car or as a studio (its current incarnation). It's a great place any way you shake it, and will be for generations to come. 



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