REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Urban aerie: Flying high on Evergreen

ADDRESS: 713 Evergreen Avenue

NEIGHBORHOOD: North Downtown 

ASKING: $499,000

2006 CITY ASSESSMENT: $205,100


SIZE: 1,845 fin. sq. ft., 939 unfin.

LAND: 0.15 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Tim Carson, Century 21 Manley Associates, 977-7300

Even though the word on the street is that the mighty real estate wind of the last couple of years has deflated to a puff, anyone who drives around town sees evidence to the contrary. Not only is almost every vacant lot decorated with a "for sale" sign or in the process of being defiled by backhoes and pavers, but interesting or well-placed properties– even (or perhaps especially) those with high-dollar price tags– are still selling (including a million-plus stone house on First Street that went under contract within a couple of weeks of listing).

This house is testimony to the fact that any sort of city property is fair game for development. Despite the agent's characterization of the lot as "gently rolling," it is in fact a steeply sloping parcel on the corner where Lexington Avenue turns into Evergreen, where houses back up to a ravine between those streets and Lyons and Locust avenues.

Anyone looking for a yard where tots can gambol or gardeners can plant a row or two of bok choi in the springtime should look elsewhere. But childless couples or folks satisfied with a Saturday morning stroll to the City Market for their chard might enjoy the almost treehouse-like ambience. 

From the third level (but actually the second floor, as is the case with most cliffhangers), the feeling is like being in an eagle's nest– or in the top bucket of a Ferris wheel.

The views include a peek into backyards (including a wooded one with a pond), but the steep lot makes for an odd layout of rooms. While the house theoretically "faces" Evergreen Avenue, the front door is actually on the side, which means one enters a pleasant tile-floor, high-ceiling atrium-like space in the middle of the house directly in front of stairs leading to the upper level.

To the right is the heart of the place: a large family/living area with pretty built-in shelves and cabinets, and walls of windows providing lots of light and views to the tops of trees across the way.

The kitchen occupies the right side of this large room and includes a deep window seat (with storage) that can be used as country-style dining-table seating. Stainless counters and a soapstone-topped island are a welcome break from the cliche of granite, and deep custom cherry cabinets glow in the plentiful bright sunlight.

Also on this level is a front room on the street side– ostensibly the "formal" living room, but impossible to imagine using because of its placement so completely out of the "flow" of the house. Converting it to a library or study for occasional use makes some sense. There's also a pretty half bath, nicely tiled to match the kitchen backsplash, and stairs to a large basement (actually the ground level at the rear). 

The owner says this space is ready to be converted to a separate unit– plumbing for kitchen and bath are roughed in– and there's certainly plenty of room. But access from the steep lot might require some agility.

On the top level, three bedrooms take full advantage of the soaring design, including peaked ceilings, recessed lighting, and more and more windows. Up here, the bamboo floors of the first level are replaced by wall-to-wall, but that may not bother folks with a housekeeper to vacuum every so often. The fully tiled master and guest baths are also very appealing.

One element of the house that's not visible but which is no doubt a selling point is a state-of-the-art security system and "smart wiring" for ethernet and other high-tech applications. The owner also points out that "top quality" materials were used in the construction, including tough-as-concrete Hardiplank and thicker-than-required beams.

Since the house is so new, there doesn't seem to be much left to do, although the owner reports she had plans for a deck off the kitchen. It would be interesting to see how that would be designed. Out on such a deck, one might feel like Rose and Jack leaning over the prow of the big ship (what was its name again?), the lower part of the yard like the ocean far below.

On the other hand, it might just seem like a deck on the back of a new house downtown. Like views of the real estate boom/bust, it's all a matter of perspective.

Photos by Rosalind Warfield-Brown