By By Tod Goldberg
Stop rubbing your eyes — those are waterfront homes you see beyond that sand dune!
On a blustery, late-winter day, hundreds of people envisioned the canals of Venice and watched gondolas filled with lovers being ferried to and fro. Or maybe what they saw when diffused rays of sunlight cut through the cloud cover made the Duomo of Florence appear luminescent in the distance. What they didn’t see, it could be reasoned, was the expanse of desert that was there only a few years earlier, because that would be too hard to conjure, what with 20 acres of water before them. (The Duomo was actually the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino hotel.)
Welcome to Terra Lago, the Coachella Valley’s latest oxymoron: a master-planned waterfront desert community with 152 homes situated around an undulating body replete with sailboats, fish, and arched Italian-style bridges. The Indio development was not the first desert community hailed as an oasis, but it personifies the dramatic new wave of developments that are changing what the desert resort lifestyle comprises. And when gondoliers serenaded passengers on the lake during the grand opening of the SunCal development adjacent to the Golf Club at Terra Lago (formerly Landmark Golf Club), it was clear that weather and irony held little sway over the people. Terra Lago is a breathtaking lakefront community irrespective of the fact that it was once a swatch of desert scrub.
“Terra Lago represents what the future of the Coachella Valley can be,” says Gary Williams, SunCal’s vice president of operations. “If you look at the amenities — you look at the lake, you look at the golf course, you look at the lot-size variations — it’s easy to understand how the vision for Indio and the vision for the other communities in the Coachella Valley can change very quickly. It’s all about bringing in quality and innovation.”
The desert’s preponderance of country clubs boasts large water features as part of their golf courses, and homebuyers have rarely blanched when asked to plunk down large lot fees for the simple right to have a view of what essentially boils down to a pond. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, nongolfing communities built around small manmade lakes popped up valleywide — from Rancho Mirage’s Lake Mirage to La Quinta’s Laguna de la Paz. But the lakes were part of the view more than part of the lifestyle.
The difference now, spurred by an influx of year-round residents, is interaction. At Terra Lago, homeowners and their guests can take up boating if they like (the lake supports only non-gas engines, so small electric watercraft, kayaks, and sailboats are the choice vessels), along with fishing. With an expansive community boathouse featuring an open-air fireplace, a library, a lounge with a large-screen television, fitness areas, pool, and spa overlooking the lake, one can expect that the outdoor lifestyle will reign supreme for the nearly 1,500 homeowners who will eventually call Terra Lago home.
[...] This article continues in the June 2006 issue, or subscribe to avoid missing future issues!