View from our Sanibel hotel room
We spent the first 2 days on Sanibel, and the last day and a half down the coast a bit in Naples. On our last day, for the heck of it, we made the drive inland to see the new Ave Maria development, the university, and the Oratory. This is literally a little oasis plunked down in rural, eastern Collier County in the middle of NOWHERE. Now, I've seen a lot of new housing, having practiced construction defect law in So.Cal., but I was not prepared for what we saw at Ave Maria. One word. Gorgeous!
I am not the photographer in the family, but this next one gives a little more perspective. The interior is not yet complete, the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved there and there is no artwork or altar yet...although there is a historical timeline and some housing development sales brochures. I chose not to curl my lip at this yet, as the Oratory is still under construction and not quite "hallowed ground" at this point. Or I might've flipped the table over.
What I did not really capture (strain your eyes and you'll see a bit) is that this is the focal point of a Piazza, with a semi-circular drive behind the Oratory with cute little shops (including a homeschool supply store with COOL STUFF!), a coffeehouse, bookstore, fitness place, spa, real estate offices, etc., as the town center. Clearly modeled with an Italian village in mind - and that is a GOOD thing. Opposite this (i.e., directly behind me as I took this picture) is the Ave Maria University campus.
The campus is in "stage one" - the main buildings are there, but clearly there will be more to come. Including a law school (hmmmm...."Professor Kit" is intrigued....)
There are strong, diametrically opposed feelings about this development and its origins, and the ACLU is watching like a hawk, to be sure. But again, I must say, it is beautiful. Just beautiful. The housing prices are in the 200-400K range, which, given the location is not terrible. 35 minutes to Naples, probably 90 or so to Miami on the other side. I'd move there in a minute....and I certainly shall when they make me the new law school Dean! (I'd settle for Assistant, mind you...)
And heck, if one of the bene's for employees is free tuition, here's a potential future member of the class of '16!
She is intent on getting into Cornell (not too far from our house, and she has the grades, brains, and personality to do it if she works hard in high school), but I asked her what she thought of AMU and the surrounding area. She said she doesn't like the crowds of FL, and believes that she should live in someplace like Brigadoon (LOL!). I looked at her and said "Honey, this place is as close as you'll ever get to Brigadoon in real life!" Really. A little conservative Catholic town with nothing around it but miles of agricultural fields, low potential for any substantial criminal activity, with hardcore Catholic college students sprinkled about. Of course there will always be plenty of room for human nature to prove my theory wrong, wolves always find sheep, but I think the odds are in Ave Maria's favor.
Definitely worth the drive if you are ever in that part of FL.