Ave Maria is a master-planned catholic community town in the southern state of Florida in the United States.
The mastermind, Domino’s Pizza founder, multi-millionaire, and main financier of the project, Tom Monaghan, had a dream: to found the first important Catholic university in the United States in the last 40 years. Since 2002 a new town with the same name, Ave Maria, has been developing around the university grounds. The town was planned for 11.000 households and approx. 30.000 people. In 2007 Ave Maria opened its gates to the public.
The center of the town is formed by Ave Maria University and a big church, so far called oratory because of the lacking blessings from Rome. The residence life is completely led by the principals of the Roman Catholic Church.
Geographically Ave Maria is far from any other city, and lies in the middle of a large swamp known as the Everglades. The closest cities are completely a drastic contrast. On one side there is Immokalee, one of the poorest cities with wooden huts, drive-thru liquor stores, and a casino. On the other side of Ave Maria sits Naples, one of the richest cities in whole North America, touting its ornate mansions and clean beaches.
The public comments about this town are at least as contrasting as the two surrounding cites. They range from ultra-positive worshipping voices, mostly by right wing conservative Catholics, to critical comments about sect-like living, sheltering off and the discrimination of people with different beliefs and thoughts; just to name a few of the critics.
My documentary photo project shows a candid view on the life in Ave Maria.
The housing forms of communities can be divided in three mayor styles: security, lifestyle and retirement. These community styles became the predominant housing development in the United States over the recent decade. Today over 50% of all new developments in the USA are such communities, and this trend can be seen world-wide.