I called on a new client yesterday, a couple who were moving from London to a retirement community in Clearwater, FL. This is kind of unusual in these modern times. Through the second half of the 20th century, Florida was THE place to retire. The climate was perfect and life was cheap.
Well, the climate's still perfect, but life here is anything but cheap. 15 years ago, the cost of living in Florida caught up with the costs in rest of the country. 10 years ago it surpassed most of the country. Florida's no longer the retirement haven it once was and the demographics have shifted dramatically.
My potential clients this morning are moving into a vestige of Florida's heyday as a retirement Mecca. It's a 6,000-resident complex called On Top of The World. The place has to be seen to be believed, I cannot imagine that anything similar exists anywhere else on earth. For the life of me I can't find any information on who built it or why, and though I've only been in the complex once or twice, the place haunts me.
Not in a bad way, but the entire complex is such a kitschy throwback I have a hard time believing that it's not a tourist attraction. The idea of the place is that it's intended to be a trip around the world circa 1955. The developers took barracks-like, three story, cinder block apartment buildings and added a a different, "international" facade to each one. Each building is more fantastic than the last and what absolutely kills me is that the ideas conjured by the facades are those of a middle America with no interest in seeing the actual countries involved. It's a World's Fair as imagined by Edith Bunker. I can't get enough of the place. From everything I see and hear, the place is a welcoming, vibrant community and frankly, the architecture has to keep people in a good mood.
This is a satellite photo of the whole complex.
And here's the main entrance. It's like Epcot Center meets Versailles for lunch in Athens.
What follows are some Realtor photographs I scrounged up. Can you tell? Ugh. I will go back to On Top of the World on a photo safari one of these days. Somebody has to document this place. So excuse the lousy photography and join me in a trip around the world...
The Viennese Villa
The Royal Dutch
Astounding. It's astounding. Every square foot of the place is a-stounding.