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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Interesting Article on Ave Maria Town Housing Difficulties

Here's a fascinating interesting article from this month's Conde Nast Portfolio on the housing difficulties that Ave Maria Town is facing.

An excerpt:
The soil of southwest Florida is loose and sandy, and it absorbs rich men's fortunes as readily as the summer rains. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, has poured at least $285 million into a stretch of rural land about 45 minutes from downtown Naples where he is building a new town and university, both named Ave Maria, which are designed to exemplify his conservative Catholic worldview. What has Monaghan's investment brought him in return? A picturesque vaulted church and a copper-roofed campus (see slideshow) for his 600-student school, which espouses an orthodox strain of his faith; attacks by civil libertarians, who accuse him of aspiring to create a veritable papal state at the edge of the Everglades; and so far, after years of publicity and months of intense marketing, just 73 completed home sales—a fraction of the 600 he expected by the end of the year.

Monaghan and his partners - the Barron Collier Co., a major Florida real estate firm, and Pulte Homes, the country's third-largest residential builder - say it's too early to judge the viability of the project, which, after all, is still in its infancy. But the circumstances of Ave Maria's birth could not be more challenging. It was conceived in 2001, at the onset of the real estate boom, during which the median home price in Naples would double in just five years. The developers were originally hoping to construct 1,000 houses a year at Ave Maria, reaching a goal of 11,000 over the next decade, while also creating parks, shops, restaurants, and 500,000 square feet of office space. That's not going to happen, at least not at the pace the developers had hoped, for reasons that are both symbolic of wider market conditions and peculiar to the unique - and controversial - nature of Monaghan's project. Ave Maria is coming into being at the dawn of the worst real estate recession since the early 1990s, in a place that could fairly be called the epicenter of the bust.
"Monaghan and his partners ... say it's too early to judge the viability of the project." Which is why so many people warned that the decision to move the law school should have been delayed to wait and see how the real estate gamble turned out.

HT: AveWatch.org