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Strategic Planning Leads the Way to Sustainability

The new brand identity of AV Homes better serves the lifestyle of 55-plus homebuyers with a viable vision and an environmental commitment.

By Elysia McMahan

It is one of the most desirable locations in Arizona. At the foot of the Sierra Estrella Mountains outside of Phoenix, CantaMia by AV Homes, is a unique multi-generational, master-planned community. The innovative Environments for Living certified community was designed for today’s retiring 55-plus Baby Boomers with compelling options to fit both budget and lifestyle.

Located within the developing area of Estrella, this gated community is brought to life in open spaces with the contrast of the rolling desert and revitalizing lakes positioned side-by-side. The tranquil and relaxing setting lies on 587 acres at the southern-most end of Estrella Parkway and is the perfect place to enjoy a hale and hearty retirement. CantaMia, which artistically means “song of myself,” celebrates the unique journey that people take in their lives. It would not be happening without the contributions and efforts of many people. The addition of CantaMia has added property tax value to the city and provided the need for additional retail services, which of course contribute to the city’s well-being.

“We opened CantaMia in the midst of the real estate recession that hit Phoenix hard, but we were able to acquire land at a good price and we had a great financial partner who believed in our expertise and vision,” said Carl Mulac, president of AV Homes.

Initially designed by Engle Homes, it was saved from bankruptcy by Joseph Carl Homes, headed by Carl Mulac. Joseph Carl Homes and what now is AV Homes later joined forces, with Mulac at the helm. The emphasis at AV Homes is a commitment to quality of “green building and energy efficiency.” Vitalia is the new brand identity for the AV Homes active adult communities. “This initiative aligned perfectly with the re-engineering of our operations. We sensed the market was on the verge of recovery and we needed to make sure we were positioned to participate in the rebound,” Mulac said. This move is part of the company’s new strategic direction that looks to increase its product offerings and geographic footprint to better serve the lifestyle aspirations of the 55-plus homebuyers.

Essentially, efficiency both with construction and home performance was the key to this community. Funded primarily through private investments, the CantaMia community is an Arizona Public Service Energy Star and Solar community, as well as an Energy Star community and under this program APS gives financial incentives to Vitalia by AV Homes for building eco-friendly housing. This industry program looks at houses as a building science, delivering superior construction techniques and energy efficiency. CantaMia’s recognition in the green world also includes the 2012 “Best Community” Gold Award, “Best Green Community” Silver Award by NAHB 50- plus Housing Council and achieved Green Certification from Environments for Living. “These honors are a validation that our vision and execution of this new community has resonated not only with our home buyers but with our industry peers. That is very rewarding. The environmental commitment makes sense on so many different levels, from saving our homeowners money on their energy bills to reducing the carbon footprint,” stated Mulac.

In fulfilling their role to improve the building process wherever possible, all homes include improved fresh-air ventilation, internal moisture management, combustion safety and Energy Starrated Whirpool appliances. They will also feature a photovoltaic and thermal system that will provide nearly 65 percent of the home’s required energy. the America Solar systems used on these homes are three times more energy efficient than basic solar energy and provide the majority of the heating, cooling and water for the CantaMia community. Other green building construction elements include the Owens Corning Energy Complete system, which helps the homes achieve an average HERS score of 38 and makes CantaMia 62 percent more energy-efficient than other code-built homes. In celebrating the energy-saving features, there’s a fun signage along the sidewalk leading from the sales office to the model home area. CantaMia even has a Green Gallery called “Green Exposed” where all of the community’s energy-saving features are showcased.

Without sacrificing style for sustainability, CantaMia is planned for approximately 1,750 single-story homes that will come in 16 different floor plans. Homes range in size from 1,200 to more than 2,800 square feet and feature a variety of two bedrooms, front courtyards, as well as back covered patios and many include the opportunity for a guesthouse called a casita. The homes range in price from the $150,000s to mid-300,000s. CantaMia just recently added two new model homes to its original 14, which have been designed with the empty nester in mind while both encouraging healthy connections with the environment and one another.

Currently, there are around 200 residents living within CantaMia in more than 100 homes that have closed escrow with expectations of numerous more to close every month moving forward. This community offers up the opportunity for the 55-plus family members to indulge in the best of both worlds with their exclusive Active Adult amenities, as well as take part in additional recreational activities with their families, as it is quite possible that CantaMia buyers have children and grandchildren living in Estrella. “Our residents love the interaction with the community at large and, in particular, the area where they can spend time with their children and grandchildren. We have established a relationship with the culinary arts program at the high school up the street and those kids are often involved in the resident events, showcasing their culinary talents,” mentions Mulac. Residents will enjoy the discounted golf fees at the Golf Club at Estrella which is just down the hill.

There are many ways that CantaMia stands out from the scores of other retirement communities. The 29,000 square foot Village Center, which opened in February 2011, is the focal point of the lifestyle, with a full fitness center and access to fun aerobic and core conditioning classes like Yoga and Zumba. Pickelball is also a crowd pleaser with current residents, which is a cross between tennis and ping pong. A very popular element of the community is the demonstration kitchen within the Village Center. “Healthy living becomes increasingly important as we age, and we make it easy to be healthy by offering fun and innovative cooking classes. In fact, the TV show ‘What’s Cooking at CantaMia’ that we created airs on the Phoenix NBC affiliate,” explained Mulac. The exercise, cooking and activity programs are designed to encourage healthy life choices. The warm Sonoran Desert sun offers up the ideal location for residents to indulge in an array of outdoor activities. There is a resort style pool, bocce ball, an indoor lap pool, canals, lakes and miles of walking trails throughout the community.

The community had its grand opening in February 2010, but construction is on-going. CantaMia’s sales demand will drive the timeline for future construction while residents explore their vision for a sustainable future. “The homebuilding industry has changed in some dramatic ways as a result of this five-year downturn. We’ve studied these changes and restructured our company so we could respond quickly to these new market opportunities while capitalizing on our expertise in serving Baby Boomers,” Mulac said.

Elysia McMahan is an editorial assistant of 50+ Builder magazine. She may be contacted at

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