We live in a desirable neighborhood. There is no question about that. Mention of Westchase is generally met with a nod of approval or a raised eyebrow. Yet what exactly makes Westchase so appealing to homebuyers? We decided to find out by asking our residents one very simple question: “Why Westchase?”
Their responses were overwhelmingly positive.
When Brian and Stacy Heckman made the move to Tampa for Brian’s job, Stacy was pregnant with their first child. The Heckmans decided “family-friendly” was their main objective in choosing a new neighborhood. “We knew nothing about Tampa, but we had a few friends that lived in South Tampa, so we started our search there,” Stacy recalls. Several houses later, Stacy was left wondering, “Where are all of the parks? Where are the sidewalks?”
A friend overheard Stacy’s concerns and advised the couple to look into Westchase. “Our Realtor drove us into Westchase and I said to myself, ‘This is what I have been looking for!’” Stacy proclaims.
The Heckmans sat down with their Realtor at Starbucks to go over listings and Stacy decided that she wanted a home in the vicinity – near the pool, the park and the schools. That is how the Heckman’s came to call The Bridges home.
Like the Heckmans, Jen and Rick Langsford made the move to Tampa when they were expecting their first child. They thought it might be fun to live by the beach and so they settled in the community of Tierra Verde. The Langsfords soon realized that sometimes a neighborhood that offers the ideal pre-child lifestyle does not necessarily work once kids become part of the equation. “We were oblivious to some of the things integral to raising a family: community, schools…sidewalks,” Jen says.
The Langsfords welcomed a second child. As the school years approached, they knew they were in trouble. They tried the community school and then private school. Finally they decided it was time to move. Around that time, the Langsfords met up with friends for dinner in West Park Village and they fell in love with the area. “There was a true community feeling. We could walk (on sidewalks!) to dinner and families were outside in the evening. The ‘A’ school was five minutes away. In fact everything was five minutes away,” Jen says.
The Langsfords are now happily settled on a cul-de-sac in The Greens, where their kids spend the after-school hours hunting for frogs, riding bikes and playing with friends. Jen notes it was definitely the right move for her family and adds, “When I cross the threshold with the ‘Westchase’ sign on Linebaugh, I know all is right in our world.”
Mary Young made the move to Westchase for one simple reason – the front porch on her Village Greens home. The sense of security offered by the gated community was a plus as well. After nearly nine years in Westchase, Mary admits she loves her house and her neighbors, but it is the beauty of this neighborhood that gets her every time. “I am constantly reminded in my heart each and every time I cross Sheldon Road and enter Westchase how much I love the visual beauty of the landscaping and the peace it fills me with,” Mary says.
Bill Fries agrees. While his wife Marcy and he were drawn to Westchase for a number of reasons – the good schools, the great location, the sense of community – the beauty of the neighborhood struck a chord with them. “We were coming from the suburbs of Detroit, which are beautiful, and the neighborhoods of Westchase, with the lakes, ponds and green belts, reminded us of our Detroit home,” Bill explains.
The couple pounced when a property became available in Radcliffe in 2004. They recently moved to a larger home in Harbor Links. Bill admits they looked at homes outside of Westchase when the time came to upgrade. In the end, they just couldn’t leave. The beauty of the area drew them in, but it was the people that kept them here. “Not every neighborhood has people as special as those in Westchase,” Bill says.
Location, Location, Location
John Houle appreciates the beauty of Westchase. He listed the wide roads, utility lines and beautiful landscaping as his favorite features. In fact he likens the neighborhood to Disney World for the manner in which it is maintained. It was, however, the neighborhood’s location that sealed the deal on the home his wife Jenne and he purchased in The Greens. John worked in Largo; Jenne worked at USF. Westchase was ideal. “Right in the middle!” John says.
The Houles also appreciate the proximity to Veterans Expressway for quick access to malls and restaurants.
Likewise, Tuyen and Vinh Tran chose Westchase because it was a central location to both of their jobs. When they built their Radcliffe home in 1994, Westchase was just taking shape. Other area neighborhoods were in contention, such as Countryway and Charleston Corners. “Westchase made a better impression. We could see all the pieces coming together,” Tuyen admits.
The couple moved just steps away, to Tree Tops, for a short while, but in 2009, they returned, settling into their current home in The Greens and back into the neighborhood they love.
A Lucky Sign
Sometimes fate lends a helping hand in finding that perfect neighborhood. After her mother’s passing, Nancy Gerovac and her husband Andy decided it was time to leave their native Buffalo, NY. Andy did not work from an office, so their options were wide open. According to Nancy, their criteria were simple: “We needed hockey and football in our life. And we wanted out of the cold.”
The pair decided on Florida and made a plan to spend one week looking in Tampa and another week looking in Sarasota. During their first day in Tampa, they checked out homes in four different neighborhoods, but nothing clicked. “One house had a nice kitchen, the next had a nice yard, the next had a great lanai, but nothing fit as a package,” Nancy says.
On their second day in Tampa, they came to Westchase to check out the only available listing, located in Harbor Links. To Nancy’s surprise, it had everything they wanted, plus it was in a great school district. “We loved the palm trees and sense of community here. We also loved the proximity to shopping, movies and the airport. You go west to the best beaches and east to the best amusement parks,” Nancy says.
In a word, it was perfect. The Gerovacs stopped at McDivot’s to sign the paperwork that same day. Despite their great find, Nancy’s head was spinning. “It was all happening so suddenly!” Nancy exclaims. “I remember what seat I was sitting in when I said out loud, ‘I could use a Labatt Blue right about now!’ − figuring I would never find that beer so far from the Canadian border,” she adds. When a waitress overheard her and delivered a Labatt Blue to Nancy free of charge, she knew they had found their new home. They never even made it to Sarasota…
Rob and Carol Lambert’s sign that Westchase was the place for them came in a slightly different form. The Lamberts were engaged and were looking for a home that would provide a fresh start for the two of them, as well as Rob’s daughter, who was three at the time. While heading to Citrus Park to look for homes, they happened upon Westchase. Thinking they would not be able to afford such a lovely neighborhood, they decided to just stop at one of the parks to let their daughter play. She saw a little girl coming out of the restroom and said, “I have to go potty!” – a surprising statement from a child that had been having a rough time with potty training.
When their daughter followed through with her intentions, the Lamberts took that as a sign of good luck and knew they had to find a home in Westchase. The couple loved all that the area had to offer their family and the fact that it was all a short walk or bike ride away. Happily, the Lamberts found their dream home on a cul-de-sac in Bennington. They moved in one week before their wedding.
A Leap of Faith
Looking at Westchase now, in all of its glory, it would be hard to deny the neighborhood’s appeal. But what if all you were looking at was a smattering of houses on a single thoroughfare with nothing but cow pasture for miles around? Would you be brave enough to make that move? Hal and Joanne Gastler were. The Gastlers were relocating from Connecticut, from a suburb where they were 30 minutes from everywhere. “This time around, I wanted to be 10 minutes from everywhere,” Joanne states.
The couple explored several planned communities, including Tampa Palms. None of them met the 10-minutes-from-everywhere criterion. Then Joanne spotted an ad in the Tampa Tribune for an up-and-coming neighborhood. It sounded perfect and the location was ideal. The ad brought them to Westchase, which at that time was only accessible via Countryway Boulevard. “They were actually having the opening ceremony for Linebaugh the day we drove in,” Joanne laughs.
There were no pools or tennis courts, no Publix, no neighborhood schools. The golf course was still awaiting its sod. But Joanne and Hal could see the vision. They shrugged off the concerns of friends and family regarding the stability of such a new development and purchased one of the ten initial Westchase homes – a spec home in Woodbay. Since then, the Gastlers have watched this neighborhood flourish. They have bounced from Woodbay, to The Greens, back to Woodbay and finally to their current home in Keswick Forest. After 21 years, they have no intention of leaving Westchase anytime soon.
And, finally, for Harvey Mackler the decision to buy his Harbor Links home was a no-brainer: “My Realtor told me to do it!” he says.
Regarding the purchase, Mackler only wishes he did one thing differently. Harvey admits to having played golf here before Harbor Links was even built. “I regret it every day that I did not buy back then!” he laments.
Ah, well, Harvey, better late than never!
Thanks so much to all of the families who shared their stories – those who are included in the article and those we couldn’t quite fit in. We greatly appreciate the enthusiastic responses to the simple question: Why Westchase?
By Karen Ring; Cover Photo by James Broome Photography
WOW thanks the businesses that have brought you the Real Estate Special. You can view their listings by clicking here: http://www.westchasewow.com/news/entry/wows_real_estate_special_2013