February Briefs

NEWS: Update on St. Johns real estate market
By W. Andrew McDaniel

For local realtors like Karen Lindsey, foreclosures remain a top concern. With the amount of foreclosures on the rise, the future of the local real estate market remains unpredictable.

Lindsey works at Lighthouse Realty and has been in the business for 15 years. “The foreclosure are what’s really hurting us, because every time we think we’re at the bottom then 6 more houses in a neighborhood come on and pull it down again,” Lindsey said.

She also said the commercial market has not even been hit by the foreclosure yet. Despite that, the market is showing signs of recovery.

The St. Johns County real estate market was hit hard by the current recession. Before the recession began, a housing bubble formed with prices and home values going through the roof. Then with the recession the bubble collapsed.

Many homeowners were left upside down in their houses; owing more money then their home is worth. This has helped to create the current situation in the market with all of the foreclosures.

Foreclosures also help bring new investors into the market and can help spur progress. Diane McWilliams, a realtor for The St. Johns Realty Group, has seen an increase in sales over the last year.

“It definitely started picking up, and a lot of that was driven by the prices being so low and people taking opportunity, you know, to come down. We have a lot of investors coming down and snatching things up,” McWilliams said.

The buying of foreclosed homes is one step toward recovery. Home values coming down and stricter regulation on loans are also integral steps in the process.

The local market is certainly showing signs of progress, but with the current state of foreclosure, recovery is still unpredictable.

A&E: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ visits Flagler College
By Jacqueline Dautel
Contributions from Lauren Belcher

A production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” occupied the historic Flagler Room on Feb. 4, 5 and 6 to raise money for Rabbi Samuel Cywiak’s retirement. Cywiak, 90, is a friend of the community, a local rabbi and a Holocaust survivor.

“Rabbi Cywiak is a classic. ‘Tennessee Williams,’ ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is a classic. The production fits the benefactor,” said Annie Gaybis, producer and lead of the play.

Lorraine Portman, who teaches screenwriting and playwriting at Flagler College, directed the play. “As a director it was a challenging piece of work that was beautiful and interesting so I felt it was a great opportunity for me,” she said. “And it was wonderful to be involved with such a good cause.”

On Friday night alone, the play raised $1,100. Portman said everything went smoothly because of the cause they were supporting.

Cathy O’Brien was another cast member. She graduated from Flagler in 1996. Her background in theater earned her the award “Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress” for her work at Theatre Jacksonville. O’Brien said she was enthusiastic about the turnout of the crowd.

“I think it went well because we had a bigger audience, a receptive audience, and of course with every show it just gives it more life,” O’Brien said. “[The interaction] accentuated that there’s actual humor in the show where it always seems so serious.”

SPORTS: Men’s Tennis Preview
By Michael Potkay

There is a buzz of excitement around campus about the upcoming spring season for the men’s tennis team.

With the core group of players returning from last year along with the top two senior players, David Catrone and Harry Snoxell, expectations are high for the upcoming season.

The Saints are ranked No. 17 in Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division II Preseason poll. The team has been working hard this off-season preparing them for opening day on Feb. 19 against highly regarded No. 25 ranked USC Aiken in South Carolina.

When asked about the season, No. 1 singles player Dave Catrone said the team as a whole is focusing on “being more prepared” than they were in previous years. Players themselves have been holding intense practices at 6 a.m. at least three days a week, aside from their usual practice schedule. With the first two matches on the road the team will be excited to return on their home court for their season home opener, Feb. 26, against Georgia Southwestern.

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