ADDRESS: 514 Park Plaza
BUILDING: 3,200 fin. sq. ft., 250 unfin.
LAND: 0.25 acres
YEAR BUILT: 1937
NEIGHBORHOOD: North Downtown
CURB APPEAL: 8 of 10
LISTED BY: M. Gabrielle Hall of ERA Bill May Realty 804-981-0070
Recent news stories– not to mention evidence of construction on practically every inch of open space– indicate that the rental market in and around Charlottesville is saturated. Thus it's likely that this downtown property located where rapid turnover is helping fuel another record year in area real estate sales will appeal more to buyers looking for a single-family residence than to someone who wants to be a landlord. The place is interesting, however, precisely because it offers a variety of options.
Right now the large house down the hill from Park Street between Park Way and Second contains three comfortable apartments. The first floor, accessed in front up a steep flight of stairs from Park Plaza, has a large living room with pretty brick fireplace, an adjoining window-filled sunroom, dining room with bay windows, kitchen, and large master bedroom suite.
The 1930s hardwood floors, plaster walls, high ceilings, and rear ground-level entrance from an alley (with two parking spaces, a garage, and a private garden space) are plusses not available in most generic apartment complexes, or even perhaps in other rental spaces carved from homes downtown.
The upstairs apartment consists of a living room, bedroom, bath, and large kitchen across the back overlooking the garden. Two large under-the-eaves spaces are being used for storage, but the owner reports that previous tenants have used them as guest quarters (presumably for guests who were encouraged to make their visits brief).
It's also possible to imagine the two "rooms" as cozy private offices or little tucked-away reading nooks– but being windowless, the areas would rattle anyone with claustrophobia who had to be in there too long.
In the current arrangement, the basement apartment has more charm than the second story, and indeed the agent suggests that even if a buyer decided to convert the upstairs to single-family, keeping the basement as a rental or nanny/in-laws quarters might be a good idea. Down here one finds the most evidence of the grandeur of the original house (apart from the construction materials and graceful layout of the main level).
Because the house is perched on a hillside, the basement apartment– with private entrance, foyer, living room, bedroom, bath, and kitchen (including dining alcove)– has windows on three sides. And fabulous windows they are, gorgeous half-round casements (one over the claw-foot tub) providing a surprising amount of light. The dining alcove, with its archway entrance, is also a charming touch.
A buyer who wants to return the upstairs to a one-family instead of rentals will need– in addition to a good carpenter– some imagination and research skills. Undoubtedly the house was originally not divided, and so conversion may be simply a matter of figuring out and undoing what has been added or altered, such as the wall creating the upstairs entryway and blocking the stairs from the first floor.
Other changes will be harder and costlier– eliminating the upstairs kitchen, for example, or adding windows to turn the dark under-eaves spaces into real rooms. While the master bath is tiled, it's pink. (In houses of this vintage, it seems the bathroom tile is either sea green, black and white, or pink. What was going on back then?) That, and the other two baths, would benefit from modernizing.
While there's no central air in the house, the gas furnace is new, and the roof is reasonably recent. The fireplace has been converted to gas logs, which probably helps with the heat on the first floor. The house is on the bus line and, of course, within easy walking distance of downtown– and practically in sight of McIntire Road, thus a quick hop to the 250 Bypass for county commuters.
Considering other properties available, this could be a find for a creative buyer looking for the benefits of downtown living and the guest/nanny-quarters potential of the basement. The large front porch, garden space, and architectural details are benefits to offset the inconvenience of conversion.
And for someone willing to take a chance on the market, it's ready to go as a three-unit rental, with two tenants in place at good rates, and only the main level left to fill when the current owner moves.
PHOTOS BY JEN FARIELLO