TAMPA— Aaron Masaitis was driving around the Hyde Park neighborhood last fall when he noticed the 100-year-old pink house with boarded up windows and peeling paint.
It didn't seem to fit in the historic area, where land is becoming more and more expensive and rents in multifamily houses are among the highest around.
A retired Marine and real estate investor, Masaitis approached the Hyde Park United Methodist Church, the property owner, and offered to buy it.
They said yes, under one condition: He had to move the two-story, 2,900-square-foot building to an empty lot around the corner, which the church would sell to him.
So in the early hours of Saturday, March 11, a rusty machine resembling a tractor moved the 7,200-ton house slowly down the bumpy, brick street. Crews removed phone and power lines and squeezed the house into the empty lot at 604 W. Azeele St. The tractor hit a fence, and the roof barely fits under a large tree, but otherwise the move went off without incident.
"She looks so big sitting in there, doesn't she?" Masaitis asked Susan Smith, who lives across the street.
"It went in easier than the last one," she told him, recalling the arrival of the grey home around the corner on South Brevard Avenue.
About a decade ago, the trees on her block had to be removed to fit the grey, multifamily house down the street. This new old house is the third historic home she has seen reshuffled in the neighborhood.
It could well be the last unless something is demolished to make more room.
"It's important those structures are saved when they can be," said Lynn Osborne, comptroller of the church.
The church will use the old lot at 501 S. Cedar Ave as parking, with some green space for children to play, she said.
With parking and church buildings, Hyde Park United Methodist is a major landowner in the neighborhood — about a dozen properties encompassing about three full city blocks between West Platt Street and West De Leon Street, according to city records.
The church first bought the home on Cedar Ave in 2011 for $260,000 and never rented it out.
The West Azeele plot has been empty since the late 1990s, when the home there burned down, Smith said. The church had used it for parking since it purchased the lot in 1999 but the setup wasn't ideal, Osborne said.
In Hyde Park, strict zoning restrictions prevent new buildings as large as old ones. With eight one- and two-bedroom apartments, Masaitis expects to make $8,000 in monthly rent on the home, which he hopes will be valued at $1 million or more after the renovations are complete.
Standing in front of the home on Thursday afternoon, Masaitis imagined the end product: A newly laid foundation, fully reconstructed interior, even new color on the custom wood siding.
Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.