WHEN JOHN GEORGE TOOK CENTER stage at the ground-breaking ceremony for Del Webb's newest active-adult community, Sun City Carolina Lakes, his dedication held none of the fanfare that typifies such an event. Amid the smoke rising from a smoldering mixture of herbs, the Catawba medicine man, also known as Gray Otter, held the audience captive in spiritual silence while he blessed all those who will work and live on the property that was once home to his ancestors.

David Vitek, director of active-adult operations for the Charlotte division of Del Webb's parent company, Pulte Homes, says, “[The blessing was] a neat thing to receive, but it also indicated our respect to the Catawba Nation.”

Located in the central Carolina region, the builder's inaugural Sun City development will include at least 3,300 home sites nestled in 1,215 acres of lakes and woodlands.

Because much of the region had been home to Catawba Indians during the 16th and 17th centuries, Del Webb is working closely with various stakeholders to identify significant sites and set them aside for preservation. Already several sites have been marked while a handful of others are still under investigation. The preserved sites will be properly protected to prevent further deterioration; placards along the community's walking trails will identify and provide historical information about each marked area.

Vitek says the land provides unique opportunities. “It's not often that you get to go back into the history of a property and get to know the people who used to inhabit the lands,” he says.

The first residents will move in next July.