Ave Maria Oratory
Yesterday Bob and I took a short drive (less then 20 miles) to the brand new town of Ave Maria FL. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that planning came together in 2002, construction started in spring of 2007 for a community to hold 11000 people and built a University that opened in 2007 that will eventually have 5500 students, graduate and undergraduate. There are also plans for many stores, health care, school, etc. It is a community with very strong and deep Catholic roots. There are many homes built in 4 developments that focus on retirees and families and everything in between. I think homes were $100,000 to $400,000. Average house price os $205,000. There are about 350 homes sold , a school, water park and golf course (eventually to be 54 holes) and several shops, a gas station, parks, bank and a grocery store that opened a few weeks ago. It is in the middle of nowhere. Click to see map.
Back of Oratory
The lights inside
The Oratory or what I call a church has strong influences of Frank Lloyd Wright which while beautiful just doesn’t seem to fit the architecture of the rest of the community which is very Florida. The Oratory is on Pope John Paul II Blvd. No kidding! It cost $24 million. I could make a couple comments on how else that money could have been spent but will restrain myself.
The visitor center at the University was extremely helpful in providing information to us. There are residence halls, student union, Library, academic buildings. A law school is supposed to open soon.
At the left corner you can see a part of the look of the rest of the town and then a part of the university.
Tom Monaghan from Michigan and owner of Domino’s and the detroit Tigers sold Domino’s in 1998 for $1 billion. (He sold the team to the owners of Little Caesar’s Pizza). News articles say he has already contributed $400 million. He wanted to build Ave Maria on land he owned in Michigan but Michigan would not change the property he held and was paying taxes on to be non profit and no taxes so he built his city and University in FL. Of course there is much more to the story. He is still living and this was his way of being able to give back to the community, strengthen family values for generations and build the local economy. The other big partner is the company of Barron Collier Companies. Barron Collier was the person that single handed build SW FL in the early 1900’s. His is a fasinating story that I will probably tell you about later.
Bob and I found it all really fascinating. We drove around for quite a while and tried to figure out who would want to live here. While nice, not for us. I tried to find demographics on religion, age, ethnic background for the town but it is so new nothing is available yet. One of the most interesting places we have been so far in FL.