The Athenian Village Project
14- THE ATHENIAN VILLAGE PROJECT
One of the great growth opportunities of the coming decades is obviously the retirement industry. And notably, potential retirees are looking southwards, for longer recreational seasons, and most of all a reasonable assurance of healthy lifestyle. The famous "ten year bonus" one gets in respect of better health is becoming more and more widely appreciated and sought after. Thus, looking round preferred areas in the southern US, one already finds a wonderful choice of retirement communities for golf, boating, tennis, swimming, and / or shuffleboard enthusiasts.
But one area has so far been startlingly neglected. There are so far no communities set up especially to welcome people who would like opportunities to exercise their mental and creative functions as well as their bodies - nothing for writers, artists, intellectuals, academics, professionals, and all those who like to participate in the kind of ambiance that such people create. And yet it was not long ago that the New York Times was telling us that the small college town provides the finest retirement possibilities. And it is becoming increasingly understood that a healthy and happy "golden age" must involve agreeable exercise of mental and creative functions as well as the physical.
Accordingly, the Athenian Village Project proposes to set up the first of these communities in an attractive small town such as New Smyrna Beach, Florida. It's being set up to attract people who are not afraid to tune into PBS or the History Channel now and then, who might even consider a visit to an Elder Hostel program, or who work in a profession or enjoy a lifestyle that is mentally as well as physically stimulating.
Why New Smyrna? There are many reasons. This is a quietly but steadily progressive community, that has already pioneered impressive cultural institutions, such as the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Marine Discovery Center. At the same time it has completely escaped the brashness and honkytonk that puts many people off Florida as a retirement choice. (www.volusia.com/nsb/index.htm)Situated in a climatically and geographically ideal area, it is southerly enough to be below the storm track that makes wintering in Alabama, northern Florida, and Georgia only marginally and intermittently attractive. At the same time, its Atlantic exposure keeps it relatively cool in summer, while it is far enough north in Florida to be relatively untroubled by the summer hurricane tracks.
The local attractions include not only a seventeen mile white sand beach extending all the way south to the Canaveral Seashore, but a vast and fascinating lagoon area between the barrier island and the mainland, as well as extensive forest areas both on the barrier island and still more in mainland area. At the same time New Smyrna is only half an hour from the attractions of Daytona and an hour or so from Orlando and Disney World.
Additionally, land and real estate prices are extremely reasonable by Florida standards, making it accessible to a wide range of people with cultural and intellectual inclinations.
The site provisionally selected for the Athenian Village is the Glencoe Development, 1200 acres of mixed ranch and woodland a few minutes inland from the town center and the beaches.
The plan is to set up a mixed community, incorporating a golf course and an artificial lake, but centering on a college and cultural center which will combine high class and extremely selective undergraduate teaching with extensive extra-mural activities. In particular, we shall be merging, as far as possible, the cultural life of the Athenian Center with the normal activities of the town, through the use of a unique teaching method, developed at Berkeley and McGill Universities from Oxford and Cambridge tutorial type instruction, called the Atlantis Program (www.paulpiehler.com/atlantis; www.atlantiseducationalinitiatives.org).
Briefly, Atlantis, like Oxford, offers even the entering student much the same privileges and responsibilities as a junior faculty member or researcher. All courses are prepared extensively before they open, demand an entrance exam to participate, meet in groups of four once a week, focus on presentation and discussion of student work which is built up into potentially publishable portfolios. This method, as used n Oxford and Cambridge, enables students to complete six years of academic work in just half that time, and boasts a retention rate of 96%,It is envisaged that many residents of the Athenian Village would be qualified to teach in such a program. Tutorials would be largely held in private houses, (as often in Oxford) - which might, incidentally, provide tax benefits as well as income for the tutors. For the potential investor, there would also be an interesting tax advantage, that the money spent to institute and support the college, as opposed to attractions like golf-courses) would be tax-deductible. Most of all, the founding of such communities will provide a massive enrichment of the cultural life of the community, while providing an unparalleled opportunity for both regular and retired professionals to make a contribution both to educating the young and to contributing to human knowledge and cultural achievement.Â
Paul T. Piehler
P.O. Box 761
NSB, FL 32168386
"We believe that public education in Florida will not improve by reformation, but instead by transformation." Marco Rubio Speaker of the House, 2006-2008 Ray Sansom Speaker of the House, 2008-2010Dean Cannon Speaker of the House, 2010-2012