In 2001 a family friend told Glenn Sikes about a unique adult living community in the rural area of Jacksonville, Florida.
"I was interested because I remembered the old Cecil Field from my Navy days and from having worked at the base as a federal employee for many years," recalled Glenn, now a happy resident of Cecil Pines Adult Living Community for almost two decades. "Being so familiar with the place it just felt right to move in."
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, Cecil Pines opened in 2000 as a truly innovative retirement community. From the 1940s through the 1990s, Cecil Field was home to Navy officers and their families. But after the field's closure in 1999, Front Porch partner California Lutheran Homes and Community Services leased the land from the City of Jacksonville and, with a new vision for the closed military base, began a new era for the more than 100 residents who live at the spacious 53-acre community.
"Twenty years later we are going strong," said Cecil Pines General Manager Christina Purdy. "The evolution of Cecil Pines has certainly gone beyond our expectations. Except for the first few years we were open, we have not dipped below 100 percent occupancy. For many of our residents, community culture, the easy-going lifestyle and the nostalgia that comes from living on a former base is the key."
This year, Cecil Pines signed a new 10-year lease with two five-year options. "Staff were so excited we organized a socially distanced parade for residents," Christina said. "Not even the pandemic could keep our spirits down. This is a special place."
These days, the last thing on residents' minds is the shriek of loud Navy jets launching off Cecil's runways down the road. Instead, residents have carved out a rustic, quiet niche among the pines, natural surroundings and miles of walking paths that make Cecil Pines a community like no other in the area. The fully remodeled housing and neatly groomed landscape have transformed Cecil Pines into a small town of yesteryear.
"It's such a quiet lifestyle here at Cecil Pines," said Navy veteran William Anderson, who has lived at Cecil Pines for five years but was stationed at Cecil Field from 1980 through 1984 with the VA-72 Blue Hawks. "Coming back here to live certainly brought back memories. I immediately connected with other residents who remembered the old base. Of course we swapped stories."
About 30 miles from the Florida's east coast, the community is located adjacent to a golf course and residents have access to a nearby fitness center, aquatics center and an equestrian center.
"I always thought Cecil Field was an ideal place to work, now I think Cecil Pines is an ideal place to live," Glenn said.
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