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Monday, January 24, 2011

Press of Atlantic City article on booming Marven Gardens

Since we have our own beautiful listings on East Drive, this morning's Press of Atlantic City front page article was of great relevance. Our Buyers and clients may find it equally important, so we are sharing it with you!

Houses sell, get renovated in Margate's Marven Gardens like the real estate bust never happened 



MARGATE - Take a walk along East Drive, with its Spanish colonials and Tudors, and you will see a sign that reads: "Welcome to Marven Gardens."
Right behind it, you will see a classic Colonial Revival home - stripped and lifted up on its foundations to make room for a big new rear addition, a large first-floor kitchen, a new bathroom and an enlarged bedroom.
Welcome to Marven Gardens, where the real estate bust never happened.

The original planned development community - and most of Margate, it seems - has been mostly immune from the giant downturn in the real estate market that has wreaked havoc on communities up and down the shore, Realtors and residents say.
One of the four homes sold in the Gardens in the past two years had a list price of $559,333 and sold for $539,375. By comparison, a home on East Drive sold for $582,000 in 2005, at the height of the market, said D.J. Gluck, a real estate agent with Soleil Sotheby's International in Margate.
"The values have done a pretty good job of holding their own," Gluck said.
The past few years also have seen more renovations in the neighborhood than ever before, residents said, with several homes completely demolished and rebuilt. Across the city, 50 new homes have been approved to be built since the beginning of 2010, almost double the number from 2009, when the downturn was at its height, data from the Margate Construction Office show.
The key difference, said residents and real estate agents: Unlike in cities such as Ocean City and Brigantine, properties in Margate were not bought up by speculators hoping to turn a profit, but rather by homeowners and second homeowners looking for a place to live - instead of just an investment.
"A lot of other houses (in other towns) are owned by landlords, renting properties out and go-go-go," Gluck said. "In the real estate days of 2005, folks bought a lot of property as speculation, holding onto the properties, hoping for more down the road. ... The problem is, when the music stopped, everyone was left scrambling for chairs."

The typo
Marven Gardens' fame rests in part on its placement as one of the yellow spaces on the Monopoly board - one more address would-be tycoons can buy and sell at will in between throws of the dice.
But for whatever reason, Monopoly creator Charles Darrow - in adding the one location on the board not in Atlantic City - used the spelling "Marvin" instead of the proper "Marven," which derives from the Gardens' location on the Margate/Ventnor border.
Historian Allen "Boo" Pergament could only shake his head when flipping through a folder full of period postcards from the area.
"This one's ‘I', this one's ‘E', ‘I', ‘I', ‘I', ‘E'," Pergament said. "On this one, they spell it with an ‘I' - and look right here. There's a sign in the picture, and it says ‘E'!"
As goes Monopoly, so goes the world. The 1972 Jack Nicholson film "The King of Marvin Gardens" perpetuated the error, as did writer John McPhee in his 1971 New Yorker essay, "The Search for Marvin Gardens."
But McPhee's article was less about the physical neighborhood itself than a parable, comparing the extreme differences between the drastic conditions he saw at the real-life locations of some of the other streets on the Monopoly board - Mediterranean, Baltic, North Carolina avenues - and the seemingly illusory quality of the nowhere-to-be-found "Marvin Gardens."
Once he found it, McPhee described it as "the ultimate outwash of Monopoly ... a citadel of the middle class."
"People who have lived in Atlantic City all their lives don't know where to find it," one unnamed resident proudly tells him.

The circle
One year, there was nothing there - "Pine woods ... occupied by squatters (and) a man with a wooden leg" reads one history of Margate - and a few years later in 1923, there were suddenly 19 homes in a circle, imitating Frederick Law Olmsted's exhortation to break "the tyranny of the gridiron street patterns."
Sharon Goff, of Margate, recently uncovered the sale of the below sea-level land to developers Frank Pendrick & Sons for $150,000 in 1922. Soon, ads proclaimed it "the most highly restrictive residential development in the country ... built to the individual taste of the owner. The best architectural skill has been applied and remarkable results achieved. Here a unique Spanish bungalow, there a Dutch colonial, beyond a home of rich Italian lines."
The cost: between $15,000 and $17,000, an old blueprint collected by resident Nancy Roche shows. A breakfast room, not included, would set you back another $800.
Today, those same nearly century-old homes need a lot of costly care to maintain a 21st century standard of living. The home being raised on East Drive is a case in point - the federal government requires a home be elevated due to flood regulations if the cost of improvements exceeds 100 percent of assessed value.
For some of the older homes, meanwhile, it is actually cheaper to demolish them.
"It doesn't pay to raise them," city Construction Officer Jim Galantino said. "Why fix a building up when you can just tear it down and build a newer house - if they can. If they have the money. Or else they can sell it to someone who (does)."
Even if you don't want to tear them down, "Eighty percent of the homes you buy here are going to need work," estimated Marven Gardens resident Mary Brooks, the owner of a 1920s-era Spanish-style home that was recently gutted as part of a seven-month renovation.
"You have to want that going in," Brooks said. "If you want to be here, you know you're going to keep spending money. ... You need the right buyer who has the vision."
‘The right user'
"This one right here is an English Tudor," Roche said, pointing to an East Drive home. "A couple fell in love and bought it back in the '80s. It's nice that nobody's taken it apart."
The one next door, meanwhile, looks nothing like its neighbor: It's a Spanish colonial with arched windows and a tile roof - one of the few rental properties in the neighborhood, Roche said.
The home a few doors down that was completely torn down and rebuilt? You can barely tell the old house was gone, she said.
As for homes on the market now, there aren't many - only two out of the more than 200 in the development.
"There's been a few," said Brooks. "One in particular has been on the market a long time. But again - it just needs the right user."
Among those who live there - and who have made the investment to live there - many said there was no other place like it.
"Marven Gardens seemed to be the only real neighborhood in Margate. It's actually a neighborhood - not just a street," said Arthur Rubin, a West Drive resident since 2004.
For Roche, the owner of a 1925 Spanish colonial, living in Marven Gardens really has been a case of the board game coming to life. She rolled the dice, and that's where she landed.
"I knew about it from the Monopoly board," Roche said. "I didn't even realize it was a neighborhood until I drove through with a Realtor. And I thought, ‘Oh, wow! This is it.'"

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