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Derek Jeter's new Davis Islands home may be game changer

TAMPA — On Davis Islands, a residential enclave in the shadow of downtown Tampa, a street called Bahama Circle has two faces. You could literally draw a line down the middle of the narrow bend to create a border between the different worlds.

On the inland side, there's the Davis Islands of one-story homes built in the 1940s and '50s — of hopscotch games chalked on sidewalks, American flags hanging on doorsteps and rope swings tied from trees.

Across the street, there's the millionaire's row of new mansions guarded by gates and intercoms, on a glistening waterfront shared by a hockey star and now one of the most famous names in baseball, Derek Jeter, 34.

His company, Kered Connors LLC, is building a mammoth 30,875-square-foot house across three lots at 58 Bahama Circle, a two-story mansion that will include seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, two three-car garages, a grand entertainment room, a billiards room and a memorabilia room.

All surrounded by a 6-foot wall and 4-foot fence.

Neighbors in the comparably quaint inland homes peer through their windows at the churning cement trucks lining the street. They catch the occasional glimpse of Jeter's baby blue Ferrari and wonder what their new neighbor will bring to the block.

Will the two sides coexist?

Or will they collide?

Cars pass slowly by the Jeter construction site, now just the skeleton of what will be the largest house in Tampa — twice as big as the Palma Ceia home of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Jeter's company paid $7.7 million for the waterfront land, and designers value their work on the actual home at $1.75 million. All this in a neighborhood where the median home sold at $615,000 within the past year, according to Davis Islands Realtor Jeanne Wolfe. The lowest sold at $228,000.

Ken Elmore stands across the street and snaps a photograph to post on his neighborhood Web site, DIBuzz.com.

"Man, that's going to be a big house," he says.

Neighbors aren't sure yet whether Jeter will live in it or whether it'll be an investment property. As Elmore puts it, "He certainly has room to live here."

From her one-story home across Bahama, Alex Stockton feels cramped. She's tired of construction dust — the project broke ground in August — and thinks the house is too big for the neighborhood.

But her kids are excited. Her 4-year-old son Cody plans to ask for an autograph.

"Hopefully, he'll be good with the kids," Stockton says. "He could give back a little bit that way."

Everyone wonders what Jeter will be like if he moves in.

Will they see him hanging out at neighborhood restaurants Estella's or Yeoman's? Will the guy who has been romantically linked to Mariah Carey, Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel bring any starlets home?

"He's a single man as far as I know, and he's going to have a good time out there," says 81-year-old Norma Lurie, whose 2,300-square-foot brick home is a 13th the size of Jeter's.

The Luries bought it in 1972 for $42,000. The Hillsborough County property appraiser values the four-bedroom, two-bathroom house at just over $68,000, but the land at about half a million.

Older, modest homes like these make the neighborhood feel accessible, like an island suburb of houses big and small — not some exclusive gated community. Yet, houses like hers may become an endangered species, especially on Bahama Circle.

"They're all going to go the way of the bulldozer," says Davis Islands Realtor Scott Wolfe. If someone's willing to pay the value of the land, they'll want a house to match.

"Tampa's trying to be a big city," Wolfe said.

So big houses and big stars are key.

Besides Jeter, Davis Islands is home to former Tampa Bay Devil Ray Tino Martinez (who was also Jeter's teammate on the Yankees), the Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny LeCavalier and former Lightning player Brad Richards.

Lurie stands at the doorstep of the home she bought nearly four decades ago, when Tampa was just a sleepy Southern city. She once had a wide view of the sunset over the water from here. Now, she sees the construction site.

"I'm not going to let that intimidate me," she says. "I'm content."

And she adds, "It's going to be magnificent."

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Derek Jeter's new Davis Islands home may be game changer 03/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 6:28am]
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