Late birds to auction snap up Owl
House property for $1.7M
Steven and Otto Vitale say Stuart can have house for historic village
STUART — The Vitale family, developers of the Esplande of Stuart and owners of downtown properties, swooped in Friday with a last-minute bid to snatch the 103-year-old waterfront Owl House at auction for $1.7 million.
Steven Vitale and his father, Otto, said they have no immediate plans for the half-acre property, which includes a neighboring orthodontist’s office. But Otto Vitale said the developers are willing to give the historic building to city officials.
“We didn’t decide to come until today,” Steven Vitale said at the auction, which was on site at noon. The Vitales topped three other bidders.
“I think it was a good price,” Steven Vitale said. “We haven’t thought about this until about an hour ago, but this was just below our limit.”
Otto Vitale called the purchase an investment because “we believe in the downtown.”
Bonnie Schamback, who has lived across the street from the Owl House since 1988, said she was “interested in seeing what the changes will be in the neighborhood.”
“I trust that the city will replace it with a harmless structure,” Schamback said.
City Adminstrator Dan Hudson was pleased to hear that Otto Vitale was willing to work with the city on preserving the uniquely gabled house.
“We’re willing to donate the house to the city. They can be my guest and have it,” Vitale said.
City officials had identified the house as one of six they wanted to move to Flagler Avenue, behind the old Stuart Feed Store, as part of a historic village.
However, with a budget of $75,000 for historic preservation and the Owl House property valued at more than $1.6 million, city officials decided to take a wait-and-see approach this week regarding the property sale.
City officials had noted they could use the house as a bargaining chip if the new owner needs a special exception to redevelop the property.
Auctioneer Karlin Daniel said the sale was a good price for both the seller and buyer. Otto Vitale noted the sales price equated to about $55 per square foot for property along the St. Lucie River.
“You can’t buy waterfront for $55 a foot. That’s a pretty good price,” Vitale said.
The waterfront property was put up for auction by the owners, Keister and Camille Richardson, who moved to North Carolina and no longer need the land.
Those who intended to bid on the house had to produce a $100,000 cashier’s check or cash before the auction.
The Vitales have 30 days to pay $170,000, which is 10 percent of the sale price.
Steven Vitale said he would be willing to discuss a lease extension with the orthodontists now renting the cottage for $2,000 a month. The contract expires Aug. 1.
The auction drew several hundred people, including Charles Porter, who grew up in the house where his father was born and recalled selling blue crabs along the street that he and friends caught off the backyard dock.