Avila is where the other half lives.
Star athletes Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, past team owners Eddie DeBartolo and Vince Naimoli, and former Bucs coach Tony Dungy all live or have lived in Avila.
But, it's also where lucky kids — like Hannah, Will and Andrew Grisack — with successful parents live. Scott and Sherri Grisack just bought a house in Avila, moving from Wesley Chapel. The Grisacks own Symmetry Office, a business supply company in Tampa that specializes in desks with height-adjustable tables and other ergonomically designed office furniture.
Mansion after mansion of all different styles, some gated, some with circular driveways and fountains, can be seen from the winding streets, many of which are under a canopy of oak, pine and cypress trees.
Avila, where even vacant lots sell for half a million dollars, just might be the most beautiful neighborhood you'll never see. Off of N Florida Avenue and Lake Magdalene Boulevard, the neighborhood, one of — if not the — most exclusive neighborhoods in Tampa Bay, is hard to find and harder to get into.
Home to the Avila Golf and Country Club, a conservation area and a dozen lakes, the 900-acre neighborhood is surrounded by formidable walls and 24-hour guards. No gawkers or rubber-neckers allowed without invitation.
"It was named after the Spanish city of Avila, which was known for its imposing and impenetrable walls (built of granite in 1090) designed to keep out invaders," said Jeff Shelton, a Hughes Shelton agent with Coldwell Banker. "Like its medieval namesake, Avila offers unparalleled security and the highest level of privacy to its residents. Many drive past its gates, guarded every hour of every day. However, few will ever see inside. The neighborhood is a fortress, encircled by 8-foot walls."
That feeling of security was apparent on a recent Saturday morning when many residents were out walking for exercise or with their dogs. They waved and nodded to passers-by.
The Grisacks knew Avila was where they wanted to live the first time they visited — at the invitation of their friends' parents who lived there. "When you pull through the front gate, you're like, 'Wow!' " Sherri said.
"It reminds us a lot of the Northeast," she said. "Our house (built in 1992) has the character and charm of an older home."
Unlike many posh homes in the Tampa Bay area, few in Avila have stucco exteriors. Many are brick, some wood and stone. "It looks like Saddlebrook," son Andrew, 11, said. The Grisacks moved from Cherry Hill, N.J., eight years ago.
The Grisacks said they also looked at homes in the Sanctuary on Livingston in Lutz and in Madeira Beach but liked Avila best.
"We liked Wesley Chapel but wanted to move to be more centrally located and closer to the kids' schools (two go to Carrollwood Day School, one to Lutz Preparatory School)," Scott said.
The house they bought is brick, a contemporary-traditional mix with separate rooms instead of an open-floor concept. They also liked the view.
"As soon as you walk through the front door, you see all the windows across the back," Sherri said.
The men in the family all golf but they have not yet joined the neighborhood country club.
For now, the kids are just excited about being able to ride the golf cart to the clubhouse for an ice cream cone like all their friends in the neighborhood do.
Contact Patti Ewald at [email protected]