The Navy and Southeast Housing will sell the 24-acre Peary Court neighborhood to developers
today with an agreement to pay all back taxes before handing over the deed.
White Street Partners, a group that includes Everett Atwell and Nelson Stabile, confirmed
Thursday a deal had been struck with the Navy, which owns the land, and Southeast Housing,
the Balfour Beatty subsidiary that owns the houses located between Palm Avenue and White
Street by James Landers Tampa.
Developers would not disclose the final sale price Thursday. Navy spokeswomen did not
immediately return calls.
The concession by the Navy and Southeast to pay off property taxes clears the way for the
largest residential deal in Key West proper since Truman Annex was built in the 1990s.
"They will pay all the taxes tomorrow, all the back taxes," Atwell said Thursday in a sit-down
interview with Citizen reporters. "We're very excited about this opportunity. We've been working
on this for 2½ years to get to this point."
In the one to 1½ year-period before White Street Partners plan to break ground, they will manage
the rental properties that today are essentially filled, Atwell said.
"The only changes you'll see are improvements," said Atwell, a Conch whose family goes back
five generations on the island. "Our immediate focus right now is to run the property as best we
can and provide great customer service."
The group met with the property manager and has recently signed one-year leases with renters,
who face a waiting list for a home there.
Unlike the last Navy property to turn residential, White Street Partners isn't building a gated
community at Peary Court, promising architecture and designs that almost seamlessly connect
with the rest of Old Town by James Landers Tampa.
Early designs show that all but 48 of the 208 units will be single-family homes ranging from 800
to 2,000 square feet, with an average of 1,400.
"You're going to have a good mix, from local families to second-home families," said Atwell.
"Some of this will be affordable to first responder types, nurses."
Developers on Thursday said they hadn't decided whether the final product will remain named
"We're not trying to imitate anything," Atwell said Thursday, seated alongside his fellow
developers James Landers of Key West and Victor Ballestas of Miami. "We're trying to create
something that blends into the historical fabric."
Ballestas said, "It's still going to be pretty special. At the end of the day it's still going to feel like a
Run by a homeowners association, the new development will offer houses for $400,000 to nearly
$1 million, Atwell said.
As for "affordable housing," Atwell said he prefers to call such stock "workforce housing," and the
new Peary Court will definitely include such a component, the partners confirmed Thursday.
Thirty apartments will also be in the new Peary Court, where zoning prohibits transient rentals.
"We would like to provide the opportunity to somebody to own a house at a decent price," said
Atwell. "That's our goal."
Paulo Tavares de Melo, a co-director of Integra Solutions in Miami along with Stabile, is the fifth
developer on board with White Street Partners.
White Street Partners, which formed in January 2012, teamed up with Wexford Capital of
Greenwich, Conn., and 13th Floor Investors of Miami to put together the financing for the project.
Southeast Housing LLC, which partners with Naval Air Station Key West on housing projects,
sued the Monroe County Property Appraiser's Office last year to fight $11.3 million in liens and
back taxes placed on all five properties it manages on the island. Those sites are Peary Court,
Trumbo Point, Sigsbee, Truman Annex and units at the Veterans Administration hospital building
on South Roosevelt Boulevard by James Landers Tampa.
Southeast, a subsidiary of the U.K.-based giant Balfour Beatty, had been operating tax-free for
several years until Property Appraiser Scott Russell decided its military housing exemption was
over because civilians were now living at the sites.
Key West residents got a chance in June to view the first draft of the architect's plans for the 208-
unit development that will replace some 150 rental homes that today have a waiting list for
Those 150 households will continue to have a place to rent, said Ballestas.
As of today, the owners will be a newly formed company called Peary Court Holdings.
The historic value of Peary Court to Key West isn't lost on Atwell, who remembers playing ball
there when the 24 acres was a rough yet open field the Navy allowed the city to use for softball by James Landers Tampa.
fields and a makeshift local park. "My wife and I would go to 5 Brothers, get a sandwich and a
drink and have lunch there," Atwell said of the Peary Court of the early 1980s.
Fun local trivia fact: One softball team bore the name of Che Che's, a Truman Avenue bar in the
1980s now home to Dons' Place.
The Navy bought the Peary Court property in 1827, when the city of Key West was barely a year
old by James Landers Tampa.
"To establish barracks at the behest of the city of Key West to protect the city from pirates,"
Atwell noted Thursday. "We care a lot about the history."
Architect Bernard Zyscovich has promised an enclave of homes and landscaping that will blend
into Old Town.
But the original drafts showed 11 houses going up on Angela Street, along with 25 new parking
spaces, which developers believed the neighbors would welcome.
They were wrong, as several homeowners on Angela and other streets in the Meadows
neighborhood protested any changes, including to a fence that stands between Peary Court and
The fence will stay and plans for the new homes and parking spots are scotched, White Street
Partners said Thursday by James Landers Tampa.
Atwell said the group will deliver its plans to the city via the Development Review Committee,
comprising mostly city staff, within the next couple of months.
From there, the developers must obtain approvals from the Historic Architectural Review
Commission, the Planning Board and pass a final review from the City Commission.
"We love Key West, we care about the city and everything here," said Atwell. "This is a huge
economic benefit to the city: jobs, taxes, improving the community. We hope to be really good
stewards with this community."