The Resort on Carefree Blvd, in North Fort Myers, Florida, has come of age. Twenty-one years young, the resort is a vibrant and thriving community of women who are happy to testify about the magic of living in a predominately lesbian, gated community. This sprawling and beautiful mixture of stylish manufactured homes and high-end RV sites is the dream and brainchild of Gina Razete, a veteran real estate broker, and her wife, Cathy Groene, a talented professional photographer.
Gina and Cathy were on a quest to find the answer to a question that we all, at one point in life, must ask ourselves, “where do we want to live when we get older?”. They knew that many other women were searching for that answer too. They dreamed of buying in an area that was safe, lesbian friendly, that had a great climate, affordable homes, a sense of community and offered attractive amenities.
Razete and Groene hit the road and traveled all over the U.S. to find their “forever home”, visiting Arizona, North Carolina, New Mexico, Florida and more. They scrutinized prices, resale and investment value, climate, amenities, societal and lifestyle norms. It seemed that such a place didn’t exist, so they decided to create one; a bold, fearless and somewhat crazy idea when you think of the magnitude of the undertaking.
They decided that North Fort Myers, Florida was perfect. The sunsets are gorgeous. The climate is outstanding, and its proximity to some of the most heavenly waterways in the U.S., like Captiva, Sanibel, and Pine Island, made it the perfect choice for women looking for a resort-like lifestyle. Gina and Cathy purchased 50 acres of land, worked tirelessly with architects and contractors to develop a 278-home site complex complete with clubhouse, pool, jacuzzi, and lakes.
Razete and Groene also knew that this was not going to be a “build it and they will come” offering. Somehow, they had to reach lesbians throughout the Country. They didn’t have the luxury of today’s technology, or established media and press outlets catering to their target demographic. Selling the complex, and more importantly, the concept and the sense of community was going to take a mammoth grassroots effort. They hit the road yet again. This time setting up workshops at women’s bookstores and placing ads in a handful of magazines and newsletters that catered to lesbian and women readers. They relied primarily on word of mouth marketing to get their message out and to protect the anonymity of women that did not want to be “outed” through association. Their efforts brought niche marketing to a whole new level.
Janet Hyland, a resident of Boston, MA read about The Resort in Sojourner, a now defunct women’s magazine. She toured the property in 1997 and bought a lot and home on the spot. Janet loved the fact she would not have to live, as she described, “under cover” and that there was a strong sense of community and sisterhood to tap into. She also sensed that there was an opportunity to be a part of a grand experiment: living, working and socializing in a predominantly lesbian community. She moved into her home in 1998 and is still in love with life behind those impressive wrought iron gates. She is part of the fabric of The Resort and like others she uses her life experiences to contribute to the quality of life for all its residents. Janet is an artist and along with other residents, helped to develop The Resort’s vibrant and active Arts movement. Hyland says, “Some people want to try new things, but they are afraid to fail or be judged. The Resort provides residents with the support and encouragement needed to try their hand at new things. Arts, crafts, sports, music or governance through the various activities, committees and programs are an important part of the lifestyle.”
There is a resident band, pickleball and tennis tournaments, art festivals and even a film festival, called The Lily Festival named after Lily Tomlin, that features films produced by and for women. Residents with experience in management or music eagerly and enthusiastically volunteer to serve on a variety of committees that include entertainment, government, education, finance and facility management. The opulent clubhouse, private and members-only Clubhouse features a stage, ballroom area, exercise room, arts and crafts studio and a social room with pool tables and plush sofas and big screen televisions. Top notch entertainers like Kate Clinton, Suede, Lucy Blue, Susan Westenhoefer and Michelle Balan have performed for the private-club members and their guests. All the amenities are high end and the resale value for homeowners reflects the quality of the environment.
Today, The Resort, a gated community, is home to residents of all ages, with the majority of the population in the fifties to sixties age group. The streets are named after famous women and lined with attractive, unique and beautifully landscaped homes. Golf carts are the popular mode of travel and there is a congenial atmosphere of impromptu conversations and meetings that constantly take place. The feeling of community, of belonging, of living naturally and openly is infectious and permeates the entire complex. Caring for one another is taken to new heights as residents volunteer if a neighbor is ill or in need of a helping hand. Residents are never alone yet enjoying a level of privacy that is extraordinary. There are over 130 full-time residents with the community swelling to about 500 people during the winter season. A few sites are still available, and a small number of resale homes are on the market.
Home is where the heart is, and The Resort on Carefree Blvd has the market cornered on hearts and homes. Come visit. You have to see it to believe it.
For more information, go to https://www.resortoncb.com/.
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Written by Camille Barbone
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