The Church in the Sand?

By Dave Fratello | March 29th, 2010

Whether or not you're a parishioner, you probably know quite well where American Martyrs church is.

You see the gilded bell tower rising high above the Tree Section from many points in town.

Did we say the tower rises above the Tree Section? You thought so, too, right? But what if the church was actually in the Sand Section?

For one thing, that already-valuable real estate might be worth a bit more.

For another, homes in the Martyrs neighborhood could sport a "Sand Section" designation, and with that, perhaps an expectation of higher prices than they may already fetch. Buyers searching for beach-adjacent properties in MB might pull up some of these homes and give them a shot.

Looking at a list of homes that have transacted in the past several years in the Martyrs neighborhood – already a pretty prestigious area – we see that around 15% of the listings were coded in the MLS as being located in the Sand Section (area 142), instead of Tree Section (143).

But those 85% had it right: all of the area from Ardmore eastward up the hill is the Tree Section. Period.

The South Bay Association of Realtors publishes the map everyone follows, and there's no ambiguity.

(This graphic, excerpted from one of 2 maps published here and here on local agent Janie Sue Nagy's site, follows the official lines precisely. The second map shows street names.)

Nonetheless, 2 active listings in the Martyrs area of the Trees call themselves Sand:

  • 521 12th (4br/3ba, 3150 sq. ft.), a complete remodel that's been having trouble drawing interest as the listing nears 300 DOM (re-lists have reset the clock), is just a few doors up from Ardmore, but firmly in area 143.
  • 645 12th (5br/6ba, 4900 sq. ft.), construction that was new when first offered in Sept. 2008, has newly re-listed with a new agent. The new listing description labels it: "MB Sand Section's Best Priced New Home."
Among Tree Section homes, 645 12th is the third-most-expensive example of new construction at its new price of $3.395m
Though it's a block deeper into area 143 than the other 12th St. offering, the listing aspires to be Sand. Further down, the listing also says: "South Hill Sand Section Martyrs Adjacent." Where's the word "tree?"

Between those 2 listings on 12th is an active listing at 1204 Fisher, properly coded as Tree Section. It's probably 50 yards, as the crow flies, from either 12th St. listing. Its immediate neighbors, The Fisher King (1212 Fisher) & Queen (1208), which sold last year, were also both coded as Tree Section listings.

Strangely, though, another 12th St. sale last year – 512 12th, right at the corner with Ardmore, wound up with that "Sand Section" designation. Still, it took nearly 9 months to sell.

Let's try to be charitable for a moment here.

The Martyrs Hill neighborhood is at its most prestigious along 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th streets. Lots are wider and the homes, often large, are set back further. Some have ocean views. It "feels" more like the Trees, with dash of Hill Section thrown in.

The southern streets – 13th and 12th and points between – are higher-density, with new development having created a feel much more like the wall-to-wall homes closer down by the beach. Maybe the 12th St. listings mentioned here "feel" more like the Sand Section.

That doesn't change the map. No home from Ardmore to the east is a Sand Section home, no matter how it feels – or how decent the ocean view.

You hear the waves crashing at night? Still not Sand Section.

Ask the folks in the Hill Section who can hear the waves, too. They're not angling for a new map. But then again, they're in the Hill Section.

MB once had some churches by the beach, but they've long since been sold off or converted to other uses. We get the sense that Martyrs will do fine on its lovely patch of land, regardless of what the neighbors call their part of town.

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