Here's something you rarely see anywhere in Pinellas County, let alone in its largest city: 4.6 acres along open water draped with huge oaks, two rare kapok trees, and room to build more than a dozen single-family homes.
The property, which includes a 10,000-square-foot house built in 1959, is for sale for $3.5 million. Most likely a developer will nab it, subdivide the land, build nine to 15 homes, sell each for around $1 million and walk away with a multimillion-dollar profit.
"Definitely the highest and best use in the future is as a development. To get 5 acres of land in St. Petersburg is totally uncommon," said Jeff Joyner, the Keller Williams agent listing the property. "We're seeing new homes carrying really high premiums, and we've got zero inventory of new homes."
At least one developer with offshore financing is seriously looking at the property, Joyner said.
Sam Rahall, a founder of Rahall Communications, which started Channel 10, has called the property in the Broadwater area home for decades. He bought the six-bedroom, nine-bathroom "manor" for $110,000 from R.C. Huffman Jr., a developer of the neighborhood.
The property has 355 feet of waterfront on Boca Ciega Bay. Neighboring lots have 85 to 140 feet of waterfront, so the Rahall property could accommodate four lots along the water.
"There's not going to be much land like this anywhere (in Pinellas County), much less on the waterfront," said Pam Dubov, Pinellas County property appraiser. "I know that a few years ago there was some land in Belleair or Belleair Bluffs along the Intracoastal Waterway on the mainland side that was subdivided. That was an unusual occurrence."
Several years ago, Rahall and his wife, Demi, had plans drawn to show the development options for the property. One plan kept the house intact and had room for nine other home lots, Joyner said. Another called for tearing down the house so there was room for 13 lots of about one-third an acre. One more drawing suggested 16 smaller lots.
"We have enough seawall to do a community lot on the water," along with homesites, Joyner said. It could have a dock for homeowners of interior lots. Another idea an interested buyer has floated is keeping the Rahall house intact and using it as a clubhouse or guesthouse for residents.
The French provincial home of red brick has long been noted for its elegance. The first-floor rooms are connected by a 55-foot-long gallery that opens onto a slate terrace that looks across the waterfront yard and its many trees. The house has marble and walnut parquet floors as well as a marble fireplace. Walls are covered in silk, grass cloth and hand-painted wallpaper. There are numerous built-in bookcases, cabinets and carved doors.
When Rahall bought the house at 4251 42nd Ave. S, a story headlined "Sale of a Dream" ran in the St. Petersburg Times. It noted that the master suite had an all-tile bath and adjoining den. The children's wing included two bedrooms each with a bathroom, a playroom/sitting room and a housekeeper's room. The pool was adjacent to a roofed barbecue pit. The kitchen was praised for its fruitwood cabinets and "hotel-size, double door, stainless steel refrigerator," quite the anomaly at the time.
"I'll be interested to see what it actually sells for," Dubov said. "Whenever you have a really unique property that has some value to it, whether you're talking about estates like Matt Geiger's or Hulk Hogan's estate, you just never know. It's not the kind of property that there is a huge market for. You have to have that one buyer."
Geiger, a Countryside High School star who went on to the NBA, sold his 28,000-square-foot home in East Lake for $8 million in January after listing it for $20 million in 2007. Pro wrestler Terry Bollea, known as Hulk Hogan, is selling his 17,000-square-foot Belleair mansion for $8.8 million. The asking price about five years ago was $25 million.
Though a little more low profile, Rahall is a celebrity in his own right. He and his two brothers paved the way for a career in broadcasting when they bought the WTSP radio station from Times Publishing Co. The call letters stood for "Welcome to St. Petersburg," not "Tampa St. Petersburg," as many people believe. After that, Rahall Communications got Channel 10 on the air and created live, local programming to run along with national shows.
He and his wife plan to downsize and stay in town.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.