By Christina B. Farnsworth. SoliVita combines the best of traditional neighborhood planning with the recreation active adults require in a setting that captures a New Orleans-flavored spirit.

Though it is Avatar Properties' first active adult project, SoliVita is an unabashed success. The community has had 299 sales in only nine months following its July 2000 opening. Homes in the 3,300-acre central Florida community range from $110,000 to $300,000 including premiums.

SoliVita's heart is its 105,000-square-foot, 15.5-acre village center. Anchored by a landmark tower, the village center includes timeless cobblestone streets, an arched stone-faced bridge central to the sense of the village, and courtyards and terraces designed for lingering. This social aspect of architecture is one architect Julio Grabiel says, "is vital to the community's success." Avatar spent more than $70 million up front on lifestyle features and amenities to create a sense of place. "These buyers don't want to wait for promises," Grabiel says. Rather than just constructing a single recreation building, he designed the village as a series of buildings grouped around the bridge.

Recreational features include a wellness center, pools, and exercise, weight, and dance studios. There are also craft rooms, a computer lab, an investment gallery with stock ticker, a specialty bank, and three restaurants. "All are designed to appeal to those who want not just physical activity but also opportunities for artistic endeavors and intellectual growth," says Jonathan Fels, president of Avatar. His company also partnered with the University of Central Florida to provide classes at SoliVita.

Photo: Forer Photography

But that isn't all--nurture and nature combine at SoliVita. In keeping with environmental stewardship, SoliVita is a series of villages linked by a 1,400-acre open space system off wetlands, oak hammocks, winding waterways, and walking paths. For residents, maintaining nature, even in their yards, is included and maintenance-free. Category: Active Adult Community; Entrant/Builder/Developer: Avatar Properties, Coral Gables, Fla.; Architect: Spillis-Candela, Coral Gables; Land Planner/Landscape Architect: Canin and Associates, Orlando, Fla.; Golf Course Designer: Ronald Garl Golf Course Design, Lakeland, Fla.