We love the Old Southeast, its residents say.
You mean the Old Northeast?
No, the Old Southeast.
The comparisons are unavoidable.
After all, the sister 'hoods flanking downtown St. Petersburg share a first name and a portion of a last.
It's always Northeast this and Northeast that. It's got a reputation as a beautiful place to live. The Southeast? It mostly flies under the radar.
But, you know what? That's fine and dandy with the residents of the quaint, lesser-known neighborhood of about 690 households just south of downtown on the shores of Tampa Bay.
It's as if the young families, gay couples, college students, blacks, whites, Hispanics, renters and homeowners who live there share a secret. They live in a cool place — much more affordable than you-know-where — and hardly anybody knows about it.
But that's changing, says Pete Olivares, vice president of its neighborhood association.
Why? The upswing of the housing market, the downswing of prices and even the new University of South Florida St. Petersburg dorm that's bringing professors and students into the area, he said.
All it takes is a drive through the neighborhood to see that it is indeed a hidden jewel with all sorts of houses available at all sorts of prices — from $80,000 cottages to $600,000-plus homes on Beach Drive SE facing Lassing Park and Tampa Bay.
Olivares, a 48-year-old registered nurse, was living in Clearwater in 2006 when all of his friends were buying houses as investments. He thought he should get into the flipping game, too.
A friend suggested he look in the Old Northeast, but somehow he ended up in the Old Southeast.
Maybe he was lost, but more likely it was fate, for as soon as he saw it, he knew it was not just where he wanted to buy investment property; it was where he wanted to live.
He bid on three houses before buying the yellow cottage on the corner lot for about $140,000. It has tons of charm, lots of light, and beautiful views of the mature palms and tropical plants.
The house also happens to be a duplex, although it's hard to see that from the street. The main house faces one street, and the second unit faces the side street. Although somewhat apprehensive about having renters, Olivares says it has worked out well. The revenue from the rental goes toward his mortgage.
"I love this area so much if I ever move, it will be to be closer to Beach Drive," Olivares said. (It won't be a far move. Beach Drive is less than three blocks from where he now lives.)
"It's funky. You can see fireworks from Lassing Park; you can walk downtown in 15 minutes or be there in three minutes on a scooter," Olivares said.
"Downtown is so 'it' right now. People want to live close, and this is the place to be."
Patti Ewald can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8746.