September 19-30, 1990: Moving into the Condo in Fort Lauderdale
May 5-13, 1990: A Trip to Fort Lauderdale
Return to the Index for 1990


August 11-19, 1990
Finding a Condo in Fort Lauderdale

 

The first indication that this would be a year in which decisions would be made that would have an impact far into the future came when, on our last trip to Fort Lauderdale in May, Grand found himself so comfortable being in Fort Lauderdale for extended periods of time. Perhaps I should include some background on what is transpiring.

 

Summer Trips to Fort Lauderdale

Grant had returned to Dallas from our May trip to go to his doctor appointments and arrange for the continuance of his medications and the resolution of other issues related to his illness. In July, Ty and Scott invited Grant to come down again and stay with them, and he spent two weeks there that month. Grant thought that Ft. Lauderdale was wonderful, and being down there seemed to energize him, so I was happy that Ty and Scott were so hospitable. I was able to join him again on this particular trip.

On this trip, we did many of the same things, and the storefront that Ty and Scott had set up was coming along nicely. They have bought a van (using one of their cars as a trade in) and had it painted with their name and logo. They seemed to be having a great time. Grant, too, was having a wonderful time, doing things with Ty and Scott, but I knew that Grant would have liked to be more in control of things. Grant had his own ideas about the boat and about other things, but when you are staying with someone in their house, you don't start re-decorating it for them. We had started thinking that if being here was going to be a frequent thing, then we couldn't expect to impose on Ty and Scott forever, and perhaps it might be prudent and possible to get a small, inexpensive place for ourselves.


Towards the end of this particular week that I was down there, Grant and I happened to be out driving by ourselves when we passed a small apartment complex just off Commercial Avenue, about two miles north of the isles where Ty and Scott had their boat.


Grant wanted to look at what the condos were like here, so we stopped by the Realtor's office which was nearby. The Realtor's name was Virginia, and she was a hoot, but that is an entirely different story. She took us to see the unit that we had driven by. It was a two-bedroom unit, rather plain, but with possibilities. It had a large picture window that faced a small canal. There were some boats tied up, and it made a nice scene, but the canals were some distance in from the Intracoastal, and there was not much activity on them; we saw few boats actually going in or out. Anyway, we looked at that one and at one other, but Grant really liked the first one that we saw. We thanked Virginia, and drove back to Ty and Scott's boat.

We did come back the next day to look at the area again. I could tell that Grant was falling in love with Ft. Lauderdale, and would really like to have a place of his own here. At some point in the future, he might even like to bring Obsession III from Lake Ray Hubbard and keep it in Ft. Lauderdale. The price of the unit we were looking at was $109,000, but Virginia had said that the buyer was motivated to sell it quickly, and thought that we could get it for much less. I was a little apprehensive about taking on another obligation, since the situation with McDonnell-Douglas and EDS was a bit in flux, but in the end I decided that it was something that Grant really wanted, and so we stopped by Virginia's office and wrote up an offer for the unit at $89,000. I didn't really think it would be accepted, but it made Grant happy to at least appear to be moving towards what had become his goal- to live in a place like Ft. Lauderdale, on the water, with his boat nearby. Since he was on disability, there was no work reason why he couldn't spend a lot of time in Ft. Lauderdale if he wished.

Anyway, we hadn't been back at Ty and Scott's boat for more than an hour when Virginia called and said that our offer had been accepted. The only change the owner had made to the offer was to change the number of days until closing. Grant was very happy, and I was happy for him, although I had misgivings about the cost of the unit, and about the amount of money that would have to be spent to fix it up the way Grant wanted to. Ty and Scott were pleased that they would see more of us, and in general everyone was celebrating.

But that night I could hardly sleep at all. We were supposed to go to Virginia's office the next day to finalize the deal, but I was getting cold feet. Grant was up with me, and we were trying to talk through all the problems that a second home would present. Grant told me that while he wanted a place in Ft. Lauderdale very much, he knew that it was basically I who would be footing the bill, so to speak, and if I wasn't comfortable with things, we shouldn't go through with it. If Grant had cared for me less, he might have pressured me to go through with it anyway, but he didn't, and I thought that was great. Finally, we decided that the deal was just too expensive, and that we should turn down the contract, which we could do since the owner had made a change to the offer. Immediately, I felt much better, and was able to get to sleep at last. The next day, we called Virginia to cancel. She was disappointed, but didn't pressure me much either.


Ty and Scott agreed that if either of us was uncomfortable with the decision, it was probably not a good decision to make, although they would have liked us to be in Ft. Lauderdale more often. The day before I was going to leave, allowing Grant to stay on again, we were walking along Las Olas Boulevard, about a half-mile from Ty and Scott. Las Olas is the main upscale shopping street right in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It runs east-west one block north of the New River, a tidal estuary that runs inland about five miles from the Intracoastal Waterway, through downtown and west under and beyond I-95.

We stopped into the office of Floridian Real Estate after we'd looked at some of the current listings posted in the window (most of which were well outside our budget). Grant began talking to one of the agents and discovered that there was a new listing just this week for a a one-bedroom unit in a complex right on the New River, much closer (just two blocks from the real estate office and about a half-mile from Ty and Scott) and lots cheaper- $49,000. The Realtor took us over to see it.

The unit was in a complex called Riverview Gardens, at 1000 SE 4th Street, that street being one block south of Las Olas and only three blocks from the center of downtown Fort Lauderdale. The complex, the first condo conversion on the New River (labelled on the aerial view as the Tarpon River, but known locally by the New River moniker), fronted on that waterway.


The second-floor unit at the northeast corner of the complex had been occupied by an older lady who had just moved to an assisted-living facility, and her daughter, who lived in North Florida, was anxious to sell the unit. While the complex seemed old but well-kept, this particular unit was in bad shape; the lady had not been very concerned with keeping it up. It was outdated in many ways, and not very clean, but Grant thought that it had possibilities. The unit came with a very convenient, assigned parking space.

But it wasn't the unit itself that attracted Grant; that came when he saw the New River for the first time. As I said, this waterway runs from the Intracoastal all the way west almost to the Everglades. Downriver, there is the Intracoastal and ocean access. Upriver, there are not only huge residential areas with lots of canals and thousands of boats, but also a number of boatyards and marinas. The immediately obvious consequence of this is that there is constant (and I mean constant boat traffic up and down the river. And not just small, personal boats, but huge mega yachts going to and from the boatyards upriver. Best of all, the unit we looked at had a large picture window in the living room that looked right out on the river!

We decided to make an offer on this unit at $44,000, and I signed the papers for the offer the next day on my way to the airport. Grant stayed on and conducted the negotiations, and also did another inspection of the unit, borrowing the key from the Realtor to do so. We finally, after a day or two, settled on $47,000, and Jim, the Realtor, started faxing materials back and forth. We were hoping to close on September 22, which required getting a loan, doing all the closing documents, and getting the approval of the Board of Directors of the condominium for Grant and I to buy the unit.

 

The Condo at Riverview Gardens

I did not find out until I was back in Dallas that Grant had actually made a copy of the key to the unit when he borrowed it from the Realtor and, when he was sure that the offer had been accepted and it was just a matter of time until we actually owned the unit, had started letting himself into the unit to do some cleaning. He was already treating the unit as his own, and he was anxious to get started. He also took these pictures of the unit in August, before we had closed on it, and that explains the presence of some cleaning materials and stuff in the unit before we had moved into it.


Here's the northwest corner of Riverview Gardens. Our second-floor unit is behind the stairs and elevator and the giant Schefflera tree. Its front door faces north, and is just to the left of the first flight of steps to the third floor. The other door and the picture window are hidden by the tree, but are identical to those of the third-floor unit. The New River is out of the picture to the right.

Here is the front door, flanked by the kitchen window on the right and the bathroom window on the left. The complex was built in 1958 out of cinderblock; there is no central air for the building. The individual units have their own through-the-wall AC units- typical for buildings where many of the units are second homes and unoccupied for long periods of time. All the windows are jalousies.

Grant told me that he has noticed that a couple of units have had their AC window units replaced with central AC units; these do a better job of distributing cool air throughout the interior. He has also noticed that some of the jalousie windows are being replaced by more modern plate glass. I think Grant wants to do that for our unit right away, if only to provide better views of all the boats on the river.

The next two pictures require a bit of explanation. Originally, the complex had walkways around the interior courtyard on all three levels- similar to the walkways you can see today on the outside at all levels. This gave residents a second entrance and exit from each unit- perhaps for safety reasons. Here and at other spots in the complex, there were breezeways just beside the corner units to allow access to these walkways. Sometime in the past, these interior walkways were closed off, and each unit was allowed to enclose the former walkway space and make it into a sunroom, or use it any way they wished. Most units just moved their windows outward towards the courtyard. But these corner units were different. When the former breezeway space was added to our units, we lost the windows to it; the former north wall of the unit south of us became our south living room wall. We have no windows to the courtyard either, because the view is blocked by the new wall of the unit to our east. Let's see what this looks like inside.


From the south end of our living room we are looking at the west door and window that were put in to enclose the former breezeway. These provide more light and more views for our unit. The view out this side of the unit looks up the New River, and provides an excellent view of all the river traffic.

Here is the inside view looking east; this area was actually the former breezeway. You can see the former door and window from the bedroom to the breezeway. To the left there used to be a huge sliding glass door, but of course it was removed when it became unnecessary.

That wall at the far end of the right-hand picture above is now the wall between this unit and the new sunroom of the unit to the east of us. This unit now has a kind of alcove. That is the only drawback to this unit; all the others have windows and doors at either the north and south ends or the east and west ends so they get cross ventilation; ours are on the north and west instead, so we might not get as much breeze as the other units. But we are the only units that do not front the river itself who have living room windows that look out on it, so that more than makes up for things.


Here's the living room and part of the kitchen area; the big window faces West and looks up the New River. The window at the end of the room faces North, and looks out over Ft. Lauderdale and Las Olas Boulevard. Grant wants to change old ceiling fans that are swagged to control boxes on the wall. The appliances are dated but work fine.

This is the kitchen area with the under-counter AC unit. There is a built in cabinet at the right and beyond it, between it and the door, is a pantry. The entrance to the bedroom is at the right, this side of that built-in cabinet.

One of the first things Grant wants to do is to get rid of the ugly greenish linoleum. He said it has been patched in a number of places and is very dirty.


This is the bedroom, looking towards the south to the former door and window to the breezeway. The door was simply removed and the window taken out and replaced with shelves.

This view of the bathroom looks towards the door to the bedroom. The bath is OK, although the color scheme leaves a lot to be desired. Grant hates the wallpaper, but that is easily changed.


This view of the bathroom looks towards the north wall and the walkway outside.

This is the pantry between the built-in unit in the living room and the north wall of the unit.

After staying on for another week, Grant came on home, and we began the process of closing on the condominium.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


September 19-30, 1990: Moving into the Condo in Fort Lauderdale
May 5-13, 1990: A Trip to Fort Lauderdale
Return to the Index for 1990