Capri Connection: Rapid emergence of new homes

Ann Hall

“There have been 26 new homes built since 2014 on the Isles of Capri,” said Beau Middlebrook, Sun Realty and life-long Capri resident. This is what most long-timers here are calling a “rapid emergence of new homes.”

Home of Mike and Marietta Cox is completed and is among 11 new homes built or under construction in the past several years on Pago Pago Drive, Isles of Capri.

Considering the size of this small community, originally platted with only “701 buildable lots” in 1956 by developer “Doc” Loach, 26 in a three year-period is significant.

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What is even more significant is the number of new homes popping up on Pago Pago Drive East and West; currently, there are 11 either completed or under construction. Pago Pago Drive is one of the longer streets on Island Two of Capri. Most of the new homes have replaced older ones built in the 60s and 70s.

Mike and Marietta Cox sit on the front steps of their new home after serving as their own General Contractors and doing much of the interior work themselves.

Empty lots, especially those on the water are scarce leaving people with no choice but to buy existing homes, tear them down and rebuild.

“Usually there are only one or two newer homes for sale; the rest are 1970s or earlier, so if someone wants a house that’s been built with in the past 10 years, they don’t have many options,” said Middlebrook.

Those occupying the newest homes are a mixture of full-time residents and those who say they will reside part-time for now. “The majority of the new homes are two or more stories, with a handful of single level homes spread throughout,” said Middlebrook.

A group of among 75 guests who attended the Cox’s Open House to celebrate its completion.

“The first house built on Capri was in the late 50s and located next door to where Marco Towers stands now. Before it was torn down, the owner donated it to my father for the volunteer Fire Department to use for real life training exercises. They lit a fire inside, practiced entering the house from the roof, the windows and doors,” said Middlebrook. Christopher Middlebrook, Beau’s father was the Isles of Capri’s first volunteer fire chief, long before there was a paid Fire Department.

“According to my father, the next house built on Capri was 20 West Pelican St,” said Middlebrook.

“Based on the original plat maps, it appears that there were approximately 575 single family home residential lots originally platted,” said Jeri Neuhaus, owner of Capri Realty. These numbers were broken down among the three residential islands with 131 on island one, 319 on island two and 125 on island four. Island three, the commercial isle, consisted originally of approximately 128 lots, with about 101 of them being smaller measuring only 25 feet wide and approximately 27 of them platted larger.

Axton Middlebrook (age 9) and McKenzie Del La Cruz (age 11) served as greeters for the Cox’s Open House to honor all subcontractors and volunteers who helped them build their new home on the Isles of Capri.

Marco Towers, La Peninsula, and Twin Dolphins condominiums located on island one are not included in the count; however, the lots for Capri Motor Lodge and Tarpon Village are included.

“Keep in mind that many of the residential lots were subsequently combined into double lots with just one home on them. Likewise, on some single family lots, duplexes were built,” said Neuhaus.

“The secret has been let out, and we are the place to be. We are evolving into the "Million Dollar" community, we knew we always were,” said Middlebrook.

Even back in the early years, many of the real estate advertisements listed properties as having “a million dollar view,” as most of Capri is surrounded by beautiful bays. All waterfront properties have direct access to the Gulf with no bridges to encounter.

Mike and Marietta Cox are two residents who have made Capri their permanent home. Mike’s dad purchased a lot and built in 1982.

The home of the Nelson’s, built on two adjoining lots is one of the 11 new homes on Pago Pago Drive built in the last several years.

“My dad paid $172,000 for the lot, house and boathouse/dock,” said Mike. “We took ownership of the property in October 2009.” In 2013 we were able to purchase the house next door to us as well giving us a place to build with the bonus of two covered docks or boathouses that were grandfathered in,” said Mike. Having previously built a new home in Texas more than twice the size of the one envisioned for Capri, Mike and Marietta decided to once again be their own Contractors. The couple did much of the finishing work themselves.

This was no easy task. The couple reportedly did all the interior putty, caulk and paint, plus exterior roller paint on upper and lower lianas’ and interior garage walls and liana floors. They built and installed the shutters, garage benches, outdoor kitchen and cooking bar. Mike did all of the first floor electrical, all the “low voltage” electrical (cable, internet and telephone), all finished electrical, tin and bead board ceilings as well as all other bead board. He built the center island, all door trim plus chair rails and base boards, installed all cabinets with cabinet crown, all appliances, electrical and water underground from pole to house, installed all breakers and wired up two 200 Amp boxes, then installed the electrical to Hoot system, A/C unit, pool equipment and dock, as well as water to the dock. Cox plumbed in the gutter system to the rear sea wall and front swale and installed the flood vents.

“The advantage of being your own contractor is a big money savings, and that you select everything such as the $4 caulk rather than the $1 contractor grade,” said Mike. “When there was a problem or decision to be made, we were there to instantly solve it or make it happen. I especially like large multiphase projects where you plan many steps ahead and transition smoothly from one phase to the next with no loss of time. The downside is dealing with a contractor that has no incentive to come back and fix something because you have no future jobs for him.”

We did not do this alone, say the Cox family.

“We even developed an honor roll and posted it during our open house to give recognition to our contractors, subcontractors, workers, neighbors, friends and relatives who chipped in to make it happen,” said Mike. “So many workers never get to see their finished products, so we thought it would be nice to hold an open house and invite them all to see the fruits of their labors,” said Mike. “We wanted them to know how much we appreciated them.”

Approximately 75 guests showed up at the Cox’s Open House held last month. There would have been more had it have been in season. They were greeted by two charming children, Axton Middlebrook (age 9) and McKenzie De La Cruz (age 11) who welcomed the guests, placed a name tag on them, and gave them a personal guided tour of the new home. “I am your elevator operator,” said Axton politely as several chose to ride rather than climb the stairs. Guests were treated to an all you can eat spread of food, most of which was prepared by Marietta herself.

When asked what they liked best about their new home, their answer was: “First would have to be the location; we think the Isles of Capri is the best place in the world to live and being right across the street from the church we love makes it even better. I love waking up every morning and looking up at the bead board ceiling that I built and Marietta painted. I love my office garage; the small pool under roof; the lanai cooking bar and the large covered deck on the dock. I love the design and the colors we chose inside and out and all the glass we added on the bay side with the wonderful view we enjoy daily.”

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