Gates of Heaven

By Robert Plunket July 23, 2008

Taking a peek inside two top gated communities.


By Robert Plunket


I spent the weekend exploring gated communities out east of I-75, and guess what? Most of them don’t even keep their gates shut. So what are they there for? Show? Emergencies? In case mobs of ransackers start roaming the countryside?


That’s one of the reasons I liked Laurel Oak so much. That place is locked up tight. There’s a guard, and you have to have a good reason to get past him. Fortunately, Sunday open houses qualify as a good enough reason. (As it does practically everywhere, except for the part of the Oaks down in Osprey that’s west of U.S. 41. Houdini couldn’t get in that place.)


Laurel Oak is the benchmark of gated communities east of town. It really looks like something worth locking up. Money oozes from every blade of grass, but it’s tasteful, discreet money, nothing pretentious or showy. Many of the homes date from the pre-Spanish Med era and consequently have a little more character and charm. Furthermore, it’s a prestige address with great golf and, as for the tennis, well, Monica Seles has lived there for 20 years, which says a lot.



7719 Alister MacKenzie Drive


Laurel Oak’s specialty is the million-dollar Florida golf course home, and nobody does it better. I looked at a perfect example on Alister MacKenzie Drive (the streets are named after famous golfers.) It was a big (3,700 square feet) four bedroom, three and a half bath place overlooking the second hole. It was built back in 1995 but, as they say, it has great bones. The biggest selling point was the wonderful living area—big, bright high-ceilinged rooms that open directly onto the pool area.




Above, the kitchen and pool of a Laurel Oak home.


The house is priced at $899,900, and the listing agents are Karen Chandler and Jenna Carver (941-343-7953.) BTW, even rich people go broke, and there are currently some foreclosures and short sales in Laurel Oak starting in the $500,000s. Now’s your chance.



Tuscana's cool-looking gate




4680 Tuscana Drive


Of the newer gated communities, one in particular struck my fancy—Tuscana. First of all, it has the best gate, like something out of Epcot. Once you enter you’re struck with the fact that this one is a little sharper than the rest, a little more stylish, a little more successfully designed. I checked out the house at 4680 Tuscana Drive and found it a terrific buy. At 2,787 square feet it’s a great size, manageable but still containing all the bells and whistles: fabulous kitchen, trayed ceilings, recessed lighting, the perfect master suite. Naturally, a pool and a three-car garage. I also very much liked the price: $570,000. The lister is Sara Leicht at (941) 586-4790.





Above, 4680 Tuscana Drive's kitchen and pool.


Most important lesson I learned: If you live in a gated community, you’re part of something bigger than just your house. So choose the nicest one you can afford.


And keep those gates locked!
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