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Ave Maria: Holy planned community
Ave Maria: Holy planned community
Location: Naples, FL

Ave Maria was born out of the mind of an unlikely developer and even less likely concept.

In 2003, Domino's Pizza (DPZ) founder Tom Monaghan sought to build the first Catholic university in the United States in decades to "produce the future faithful educators, leaders, and mentors that our challenged society needs." It was his idea that sparked the interest of Barron Collier Companies to build a mega community that would eventually include 11,000 households spanning more than 5,000 acres.

Like most mega communities that encourage residents to "live, work and play," Ave Maria includes a grocery store, gas station, bank and post office. But the centerpiece and what appears to be the big draw is Ave Maria University, which offers theology, sacred music and other courses committed to Catholic principles. While a private Catholic K-12 school accompanies the University, the community insists it is non-denominational and "open to every religion, ethnicity and age."

NEXT: Sienna Plantation: Green acres

Last updated July 16 2010: 11:50 AM ET
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