We've got a house in Celebration, Fla. It's the Disney town. You know The Truman Show? That's what it's like. The houses are kind of the same. They tried to create a little utopia. My wife, Cara, and young kids Hannah and Carly, are there most of the day. There are parks and pools and it's safe, so that's kind of why we picked it. It's strange. I couldn't live there year round. When people come over, they're like, Golly, this is kind of weird.D read this aloud to me last night and smiled. Suddenly Lance Berkman's reflections had taken on a three-dimensional meaning to us after our apartment gazing expedition earlier that day.
We picked up E from school and headed out immediately to the little place that had, until just a few days earlier, been my first-choice place by far. This is the little spot with the fireplace. And it's super-duper close to church. With it's proximity to church I had imagined getting to invite folks over for lunch occasionally. Also being able to be more involved as members on Church Work Days (which now, being 30-45 minutes away, seems like giving up an entire Saturday rather than a morning). Also it would be easy to have one of E's friends come home with us sometimes and hang out, go swimming in the Summer, etc. Plus, the school E would attend is one of the state's "Distinguished Schools," which is incredible.
The apartments were about what we expected them to be. And I think we could be happy there and could make it work. There were certainly some drawbacks: the kitchen was very small and had the accompanying tiny apartment appliances--tiny stove (oven not big enough for a thanksgiving turkey), tiny dishwasher that looked about twenty years old, and a small refrigerator; the space itself is also quite small and would present a challenge to a family that has two people who work from home. (D is a freelance editor and I am a student who also will be teaching one course per semester at the seminary next year.)
We breezed through this first option, then piled back into the car and headed out (what felt like waaaay out) into the country. (We are city mice.)
And then we arrived at Disneyland. Or Fantasy Island. Or the Truman Show. Or Mars. Or Nu-topia, as we've started to fondly call it.
After we exited the highway, we could see the Master Planned Community looming in the distance. As we got closer, E spied it and whimpered from the backseat, "Is that it?"
He whimpered again, "Same-ness. Ahhh. Everything . . . the . . . same," and then he pretended to faint.
The town is still actively being built, though some parts of it are currently inhabited. The setting is fantastic. Right now, after all this rain, everything is brilliant green. And the hills cascade everywhere. The homes are built by Toll Brothers, if that says anything to you. And you have a sense that the apartment buildings are the McMansion versions of the Toll Brothers houses. The whole complex communicates wealth, opulence, and privilege.
Right after we got out of the car, E reached down to run his fingers over the lush grass. But there were tiny red flags sticking out along the edges of the grass, so D and I both quickly called out, "Don't touch the grass!" Then we looked at each other and laughed. "We're in the suburbs." I announced, "Don't touch the grass, it's poison."
We went into the leasing office anyway.
This is what we found out. The builders opted for a Tax Credit option which means that a certain percentage of the apartments need to be offered to people whose income falls within a certain range: neither too little nor too much. If your income does fall within the range, you are able to rent the apartment at significantly below market value. Using their numbers as a guide, we discovered that we would be eligible to rent the three bedroom apartment at a rate that we could well afford. (At market rate, it would never happen.)
Well, I got that far in my post this morning before we left. My dear brother is visiting for the weekend, and he graciously decided to drive out with me to see this place that we couldn't stop talking about. Getting to go there with him took some of the shock out of the whole thing. We've been such city people for so long that the sheer difference between the places we're used and this other place seemed to be the thing that was overwhelming us the most.
We still don't know how we feel about it all. But we did submit our 'pre-application' which begins the process with no obligation from us to go further. One of the concerns is that the places are not actually done yet. With all the rain we've had, they have gotten behind in the construction schedule. They expect to be done by July 1. Which would be quite ideal. But the risk, of course, is what if they're not done?
I guess it's pretty clear that we'll continue to look around and think about other places. But meanwhile, Nu-topia beckons.
Here's the Sims-esque floorplan. (Ignore the crib option! That will be a computer desk, I assure you):