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Neighborhood Profile: Riviera Bay, St Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

Jim and Cindy Sojka didn't look at very many houses before they bought in Riviera Bay in 1998.

Only about 100.

Well, you see, they had to find just the right place.

It had to be close to the airports, not far from anything, off the beaten mad-traffic path, big enough for three kids and equipped with an office — or a space that could be used as an office.

They fell in love with the two-story 2,800-square-foot stucco house located on a street that winds around the brackish waters of Riviera Bay near Weedon Island Preserve, about 7 miles north of downtown St. Petersburg.

They looked at other houses, but they always came back to this one.

The teeny bit of reservation they had about stopping their house hunt and making a decision to buy the home was extinguished when two sets of neighbors came over to introduce themselves to the would-be buyers and welcome them to the neighborhood.

"They said, 'You can live here,' " Cindy said.

They've been friends ever since.

The Sojkas' kids grew up and moved out — Richard, 31; Stephanie, 29; and Miranda, 22 — but the big house wasn't empty for long.

Last September, Cindy's mother, Nancy Corey, left Pennsylvania just before the snow and cold hit and moved in with them in the secluded neighborhood.

Not many people know where Riviera Bay is, Jim said. And that's just the way the residents like it.

"I tell them I live by Weedon Island or behind the dog track," Jim said.

It's a very quiet area where huge — yet unpretentious — homes line the shorelines and much smaller houses fill in inland.

There are $100,000 houses in the area as well as multimillion-dollar homes. The average listing price in mid February, according to trulia.com, was $255,000.

But there are not many homes for sale in the handful of neighborhoods that make up Riviera Bay. While every other house is for sale on some streets, you can drive up and down streets in Riviera Bay before you find even one for sale.

It seems that once people get there, they don't want to leave.

Like the Sojkas.

The two like the quiet, and they like to bike and inline skate at Weedon Island Preserve.

Their homeowners association fees are only $35 a year and the area is deed-restricted but not gated.

And even with the children gone, there's not much chance of the house becoming too big for them.

They already have two grandchildren and a grand-dog, and the prospect of even more, to come visit and fill up the place.

Who lives there?

Jim and Cindy Sojka; her mother, Nancy Corey; and a white Maltese named Coco

Their home:

630 Tallahassee Drive, St. Petersburg; four bedrooms, three baths; 2,800 square feet; built in 1977

When they bought: 1998

Unusual features: The two-story house, the only one on the block, seems to tower over the neighboring one-story houses. There are two master suites with two large baths and walk-in closets. A very large window looks out over the front yard in the cathedral ceiling entryway.

Current value (from Zillow.com): $363,400

Why they love it: It's easy to get to Tampa International Airport, which is important for Jim because he travels a lot. "It's nice and quiet back here," he said. "We get traffic on Gandy but not much back here." Cindy said, "It's nice to have a lake in back so you have no neighbors behind you." Nancy just loves the Florida weather.

Neighborhood Profile: Riviera Bay, St Petersburg 03/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 3:31am]

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