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There's never enough storage space in Florida houses. And basements! How are we supposed to live without basements?

Worry no more.

A new design by Arthur Rutenberg Homes brings back the "basement'' - at ground level - and rewrites the definition of recreation room in a glamorous new way. And if you want storage - for cars, boats, boxes, suitcases - here it is.

The model, the Belize, is on view at Grand Cypress on Lake Tarpon, a new 109-home community off U.S. 19 between Klosterman and Alderman roads in north Pinellas County.

You can enter the 3,866-square-foot home via a flight of steps to the main entrance, the formal living area. But it's much more fun to walk around behind those steps and enter through the ground level.

Step into a big bonus room, furnished here with a pool table and big-screen TV. Step through the sliders out to the pool. This area is flanked on the left by a tandem garage, big enough for two cars or a car and a boat, with room to spare for a workshop.

On the right, there's a two-car garage plus a bed and bath.

Now that you've decided you could live in just this space, walk upstairs: great room, dining room, kitchen and breakfast room, three bedrooms, three baths, den.

The view over Lake Tarpon is spectacular. On a recent afternoon, as a heavy rainstorm swept across the lake, it was easy to forget the house is half a mile off U.S. 19, instead imagining it was on a steep crag in California. The second-floor location of the main living areas maximizes the views.

"People complain there's no room in Florida houses, the closets are puny, where are they supposed to put their stuff?" said Dan Lewis, vice president of Catenac Gulfwynd, the Arthur Rutenberg franchisee.

"Florida has been a one-story market, but land values are so high, and lots are smaller. So we've got to do two-story houses to maximize the land value," he said.

"The upper floor is your living space. The below space is whatever you want it to be: your hobby space, your storage space, your party space," said Lewis, who spent 11 months building the home. Price tag: $1.9-million including homesite.

Because the property is not in a flood zone (even though it is on the shores of Lake Tarpon), it is legal to build permanent living space on the ground level, Lewis said. Even the local building inspectors needed educating on that point, he said. The house could be built anywhere.

Judy Stark can be reached at (727) 893-8446 or


It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Grand Cypress on Lake Tarpon is on U.S. 19N in Palm Harbor, 1.7 miles north of Alderman Road and three-tenths of a mile south of Klosterman Road. The model is at 4549 Grand Lakeside Drive. Information: (727) 937-8766.