Island of possibilities
Bob Lowe sold on North Hutchinson Island as longtime resident and successful broker
BY JOE DESALVO
Most folks in their 80s living on North Hutchinson Island are well into retirement, enjoying natural amenities found on the beautiful stretch of the barrier island between the Indian River County line and Fort Pierce Inlet State Park.
Retirement? At age 84, Bob Lowe chooses to remain active by selling this Treasure Coast gem to out-of-towners looking to relocate, especially from the East Coast, North Florida and South Florida.
Lowe, you see, is president of Lowe’s International Realty Plus, located at 2901 N. Highway A1A. It’s the single-story tan building with the barrel tile roof that stands alone on the 9.5-acre lot at the corner of A1A and Marina Drive.
Despite complications from hip surgery in 2017 that has him using a walking aid, Lowe refuses to slow down, working seven days a week from the office or home.
Wife, Sharon, company vice president and licensed Realtor, has been her husband’s rock of support for 45 years.
“It is hard to keep up with him at 84 and I’m 71,” said Sharon, who retired five years ago from Indian River State College after 42 years. “He just won’t quit. I often say to him, ‘Let’s just quit and let’s enjoy traveling’ and all that. He says, ‘I’ve got to stay busy.’
“This [their business] keeps his mind going and active,” she said. “He’s so active in the community. He’s not going to quit. No quitting.”
Lowe will have none of that when it comes to professional and community involvement. In addition to having served on state and area Realtor boards, he was elected chairman of the St. Lucie County Planning and Zoning Board in January and just served as chairman of the St. Lucie County Board of Adjustment.
Lowe has also served on several community boards, including New Horizons, a drug, alcohol and mental-illness facility on the Treasure Coast. He’s also on the board of directors of the St. Lucie County Hundred Club. The organization provides direct financial help for spouses and dependents of law-enforcement officers and firefighters who have lost their lives or become disabled in the line of duty.
It was supporting the American Cancer Society years ago that enabled Lowe and Sharon to meet in the mid-1970s when the Chicago native was general manager of Nash Pontiac Cadillac on South U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce.
Sharon, who came to Florida from Minnesota, likes to tell the story:
“I was doing a bike-a-thon for the Cancer Society and I stopped at Nash Pontiac Cadillac because I knew some of the salesmen,” Sharon said. “I said, ‘Would you sponsor me for this bike-a-thon,’ and they said, ‘No, we’re not going to do it, but our boss will.’
“So, they sent me in to meet Bob Lowe,” Sharon said. “He sponsored me for the bike-a-thon and when I walked out, he said to his sales people, ‘I might try to marry that girl.’ And, about a year and a half later, we got married [in 1977]. So, pretty crazy.”
There’s nothing crazy for what happened next for Lowe.
It was after Lowe discovered that the dealership was being sold that he became a licensed broker in 1984. It was the start of a successful career that spanned three offices — Lowe Realty in the plaza at U.S. 1 and the North Causeway, and then Century 21 Lowe Realty offices in Sebastian and Vero Beach.
Lowe sold those offices and opened Lowe Realty in the former strip center that stood behind the current office. It was in 2010 that Bob completed the build-out of a planned office for a project that fell through, and established Lowe’s International Realty.
The Lowes are quite familiar with the island, having lived in Queen’s Cove and The Sands before moving to Breakers Landing 30 years ago. They saw the potential growth in their business by opening an office on it.
“No. 1, we lived on the island; we loved the island,” Lowe said. “We loved what the possibilities of the island could be when developed.
“Our beaches are beautiful; we have fishing; we have a new bridge coming in; we have an airport with Customs; and plenty of golf courses [in the area],” he said.
First-year sales provided an omen of what was to come for the company.
“We did pretty well, but there wasn’t any competition on the island,” Lowe said.
Some refer to Lowe as “Mr. North Beach.” His reaction: “Sounds good. I’ve been here forever.”
Sharon calls North Hutchinson Island “a diamond in the rough, because people don’t realize it’s still so pristine and it’s going to stay that way.
“I think the values are just going to go up, that’s what our total belief is, especially when you see what Vero gets opposed to us,” she said. “I think there’s no place to go but up.”
According to Realtor.com, the median listing price in North Hutchinson Island in December was $649,000, compared to $2.4 million in The Moorings community located north of the St. Lucie/Indian River county line on A1A.
When it comes to addressing their clients’ residential, rental, waterfront and commercial property needs, the Lowes have a talented six-member staff. The team did $30 million in sales last year, mostly on the island … and mostly cash deals, according to Lowe.
As for 2023, “I think it’s going to be good; I really do,” Lowe predicted. “There’s still a shortage of homes. The prices dropped a little bit because of the financing [rising interest rates]. Now the interest rates are starting to go back down. And I think that the market is going to be good. The last half of the year is really going to be strong.”
COMMERCIAL LOT LOWDOWN
As for commercial real estate, one has to trust Lowe’s track record.
“My real success in life has been as a commercial broker,” said Lowe, who also owns and operates Lowe Realty Corp. “I know what I know and that is commercial — hotels, casinos and the international business.
“The island has only one problem — there’s no place to open a business right now,” he said. “This is it [the 9.5-acre mixed-used lot on which his office stands] and the hotel site.”
Both properties were casualties of the destructive winds of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in September 2004.
Lowe has sold the property three times, but has yet to see it developed. It even comes with access to the Intracoastal Waterway via a canal in the back of it.
Designs for the property have already been approved by the county, according to Lowe. “Plans for the three-story complex include 70 units with shops below the front condos.”
“We’re hungry for it here,” Sharon said. “We’ve met a lot of people who are interested.”
“It will sell because there’s nothing left,” Lowe added.
It’s on the market for $7 million.
As for the former Holiday Inn site nearby at the northeast corner of A1A and Shorewinds Drive, Lowe sold it a year ago in December to an investor in Vero Beach. It’s 11.8 acres with 500 feet on the beach.
“He wants $50 million for it,” Lowe said. “It’s zoned for 36 units an acre for a hotel, commercial, and commercial hotel. You can build condos, but they have to be part of the hotel. You can make a Marriott Residence and sell some as condos to make your money back. Then they control the rental of it.”
IMPACT FROM NEW BRIDGE
What should be a game-changer for those aforementioned sites and residential property values on the island is the North Causeway Bridge replacement project that has been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The existing two-lane 2,100-foot-long bridge, constructed in 1963 and including a double bascule over the Intracoastal Waterway’s main channel, is being replaced with a high-level 4,152.5-foot-long fixed bridge crossing over the FEC Railroad tracks, Old Dixie Highway and the Intracoastal Waterway.
First approved five years ago, preliminary work has finally begun after several delays. It should be completed by the end of 2025.
“It will increase the [real estate] prices,” Lowe said.
Debra Madden, who has been with the Lowes for six years and serves as office and rental manager as well as being a broker sales associate, agreed.
“It will be the second largest [bridge to island, the other being the 17th Street bridge in Vero Beach],” Madden said of the bridge’s impact on the island’s real estate market. “It’ll be a destination. People will want to go over it.”
In the meantime, the Lowes have taken on a new project. They closed in December on 35 lots in Bear Creek in Linville, North Carolina. It’s a private, prestige residential community near Blowing Rock, Boone and Banner Elk.
“We did our honeymoon in Banner Elk and Beech Mountain, and that’s where we fell in love with North Carolina,” Sharon said. “So, we’ve had numerous homes up there and now we’re buying this project and trying to sell these lots.”
“I think we’ll have all the lots sold in 18 months,” Sharon said. “That’s our goal and we already have sold eight since the Dec. 28 closing.”
Lowe is quick to share his principles of selling real estate so effectively and in Bear Creek’s case, so swiftly.
“Honesty. Integrity. And, satisfying the customer,” he said. “We’re very firm on that.”
Not to mention, visitors and clients can count on receiving the Lowe’s International Realty Plus LED mini flashlight from the Lowes.
“He’s known as the ‘Flashlight Guy’ all over Vero and Fort Pierce,” Sharon said with a smile.
With that said, Lowe is possibly shedding light on retirement plans?
“I’ve been blessed. We’ve both been blessed,” Lowe said. “I thank God every day. We talked about that this morning. I’m going to retire someday — I think sooner than later.”
Realty Plus Inc.
Robert J. Lowe Sr., Broker/President
2901 N. Highway A1A
Hutchinson Island, FL 34949
Office Phone: 772.467.6500
Cell Phone: 772.559.1676
Bear Creek at Linville,
Robert J. Lowe Sr., Broker
Office phone: 828.742.0000
Cell Phone: 772.559.1676
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