Historic downtown building to house stylish new flats

An entrepreneurial island couple are renovating an historic building downtown that will preserve part of Vero’s architectural heritage and bring four stylish new apartments to the tight mainland rental market by the end of the year.
The simple Mediterranean Revival-style structure at 1429 19th Place – directly across 19th Place from Dale Sorensen Real Estate’s downtown office – was built in 1925 as an apartment building, according to county property records.

Karen and Jerry Felchini

Karen and Jerry Fulchini, who live in Castaway Cove and own Baci Trattoria on 14th Ave. and Vero Beach Import Auto Service on U.S. 1, bought the neglected building in 2015 for $180,000 with the idea of renovating it for commercial use, probably as a restaurant.
The more she thought about it, though, the more Karen wanted to preserve it for its original use as a fourplex, to provide housing for people who want to live near downtown’s burgeoning restaurant and art gallery scene.
“I fell in love with it,” she says of the building, once called the Luther Apartments, which she has renamed Villa Lemoncello. (The spatulated stucco exterior is painted yellow.)
“I had a priest come and bless it,” she adds. “We want to make a place that some very cool people will come and live. So many people want to live downtown now and the apartments will be perfect for a single professional or a young couple with a gallery or young roommates working in the restaurant scene who want to be able to walk or bike to work.”
By the time the Fulchinis acquired the building, part of the roof had collapsed and much of the interior had suffered water damage, but they plunged into the project with the intent of saving everything that could be saved to preserve the historic ambiance.
Surviving interior elements include the central staircase, part of the 1925-vintage Dade County pine flooring, four fireplaces, sections of the lath and plaster walls and lots of woodwork, including many of the original doors.
Working around those elements, the Fulchinis have done a complete rehab, with a new roof and new wiring, plumbing and HVAC. The 1-bedroom, 1-bath 800-square-foot apartments have been reframed to open them up and create a modern floorplan with a combined kitchen and living area in the place of the old cramped rooms.
Karen Fulchini, who had a graphic and interior design firm in South Florida before moving to Vero, designed the new interiors, and Jerry Fulchini, who was born in Italy and has a streak of old-world craftsman in him, has done much of the work.
Karen says she is having “to sell a lot of meatballs” at Baci Trattoria to pay for the renovations.
“When you do these projects, you are not supposed to fall in love with the building, but we did,” she says. “You are supposed to be a business person and just get it done, but we care too much to do that. It is an important building that deserves to be saved.”
With new bathrooms, kitchens and interiors that retain key historical features and an exterior that looks much as it did when Calvin Coolidge was president, the apartments will offer an ideal combination of vintage charm and modern amenities that should appeal to the type of renters Karen has in mind for the property.
There is parking behind the building and the Fulchinis are creating a walled courtyard with a fountain in front as a common sitting area.
Plan revisions that incorporate a county-required sprinkler system and other changes have slowed renovation of the 3,400-square-foot building but Karen says the apartments will be ready for occupancy by the end of the year. The Fulchinis expect to rent the units for between $1,200 and $1,500 per month, depending on final renovation costs and market conditions when the apartments are ready.
The term Mediterranean Revival is often used generically to encompass Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival buildings, as well as Moorish and Italianate architecture.
The romantic style, which was popular in the 1920s and ’30s, originated in Florida and California in the wake of the Pan American Exhibition in San Diego and the opening of the Panama Canal and it is the most notable type of historical architecture found in Vero Beach, where it is expressed in a number of handsome commercial buildings and many beautiful homes.
Prominent examples of the style in Vero include the Farmers Bank building, now Vero Furniture Mart, the Theatre Plaza and the Pocahontas Apartments, all on 14th Ave. downtown. Brazilian Court at 1805 19th Place and the Royal Viking at 706 Royal Palm Boulevard are two other apartment buildings in the Mediterranean/Spanish Colonial Revival style that are familiar to Vero residents.
Med Revival homes are scattered through older parts of mainland Vero Beach, with a heavy concentration in the Osceola Park neighborhood, and there are some great, almost palatial examples on the island, mainly in Old Riomar.

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