Via Paradisus: Beauty and serenity for horse and nature lovers

By Brad Rogers | Photography By Ralph Demilio

From the moment you pass through the massive, elegant gates of Via Paradisus, the beauty and uniqueness of this upscale community in southern Marion County immediately ignites the senses. From its tree-canopied roads to its rolling hills to its abundance of wildlife, Via Paradisus lives up to its name, which is Latin for “way to paradise.”

And paradise it is, according to those who reside in this sprawling 1,000-acre community on County Road 475 abutting the Cross Florida Greenway to its north, as well as Florida Horse Park to the west.

“Primarily we were looking for agricultural land for birding and horses with Greenway access,” said Darcy Shaddix, who with husband, Steve, moved into their “modern farmhouse” on 11 acres in 2020. “It was just awe-inspiring when we drove in.”

Next door to the Shaddixes live David Treitel and Carla D’Andre-Treitel, who moved here from Miami last summer and purchased a home and 33 acres that provide both privacy and room for their horses.

“This community is lovely,” said David Treitel, a financier. “We spent a lot of time looking at a lot of properties. Then we saw this community – and we loved it. The entrance is so impressive. Then you see the tree-lined road, which you just don’t see anywhere.

“You want to have your own farm and you want to have your own community. We couldn’t find anything like this, and we looked around. We looked at every place.”

Purchased by Ocala developer Glenn Lane and his First American International Inc. in 2005, Via Paradisus is located 9 miles south of downtown Ocala on County Road 475 on what once was the Franks Farm, owned by the late and legendary horseman John Franks. Lane, who also developed Turning Hawk and Turning Hawk II, said he was immediately struck by the beauty of the property. It was the proximity to the Greenway, though, that Lane thought made Via Paradisus special.

“I knew the value of the Greenway,” he said. “I thought the Greenway was going to be one of the best natural assets in the center of the state. I fell in love with it. I thought this place can be beautiful.”

After Lane acquired the property, the state of Florida created the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park, whose entrance is across County Road 475 from Via Paradisus. For horse people, the location could not be more perfect.

In addition to having direct access to the Greenway and the Horse Park, Lane designed the lots in Via Paradisus with enough setback so there are riding trails throughout the community.

Living in Via Paradisus

The Shaddixes and Treitels say living in Via Paradisus is special because of its large homesites, its natural surroundings and its peace and quiet. The 5,000-square-foot Shaddix home was designed to bring as much of that beauty and nature into their living room, with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows stretching across the back of their house.

“It’s so nice looking out there and not seeing a house,” said Steve Shaddix. “The vistas – and they are vistas, not views – are just remarkable.”

Shaddix, who owns Market of Marion, is a lifelong bird watcher, as now is his wife, Darcy, and Via Paradisus provides them a magnificent venue from which to pursue their hobby.

“We all love nature; we all love the outdoors,” Darcy Shaddix said, referring to themselves and their fellow Via Paradisus residents. “We knew we wanted it to have the potential for birding.”

The Shaddixes have not been disappointed. Since moving into Via Paradisus, she said they have identified more than 100 different species of birds, which she attributes to the community’s diverse habitats that include everything from marshlands to grasslands to stands of big oaks.

“My favorite thing is to see a flock of like 27 turkeys,” she added. “It just brings a smile to my face.”

In addition to birds, the Shaddixes see a wide array of other wildlife on a daily basis. There are bobcats, coyotes, pigs, bears, deer and owls.

But it’s not just the living creatures that make Via Paradisus unique. There is nothing cookie-cutter about the community. Each home is custom built by whichever builder the buyer chooses. While lots, which range in size from 5 to 20 acres – and some people have bought multiple lots for up to 40 acres – are marketed through Joan Pletcher Real Estate Network, the homebuilding is left to the lot buyer, although Via Paradisus does have an architectural review board that must approve plans to ensure the quality and character of the community.

For Steve Shaddix, that diversity of home styles makes the neighborhood “interesting” and different from most other Marion County developments

“You come here and you can have your dream house,” Lane said. “They’ll have the perfect setting, and then they can dream about what their life and home can be.”

Part of that dream, according to the Shaddixes and the Tretels, is the friendliness of their neighbors.

“I just love the camaraderie with the neighbors,” Darcy Shaddix said. “We all share a love for horses, and we all love the outdoors. Neighbors will just pull up in our front yard and start talking.”

Carla D’Andre-Treitel, a global insurance executive, agreed.

“This is a fabulous community,” she said. “The people are extremely friendly.”

For the Treitels, who fled Miami because of rising crime and crowding, not only were they surprised to find an upscale community like Via Paradisus in which to pursue her passion for horses, they were also pleasantly surprised by “how sophisticated Ocala is.” They have found the city’s cultural arts – he is the former chairman of the board of Miami’s Florida Grand Opera – to be excellent and the dining options to be exceedingly good.

But it is the serenity and scenery that surrounds their 6,000-square-foot Arthur Rutenberg home that inspires them.

“I love it because it reminds of where I grew up,” Carla D’Andre-Treitel said, explaining that her childhood home was a family-owned nursery in a conservation community and a wildlife sanctuary in New York. “It’s almost too much to believe. It does not feel real to us.”

Creating a ‘beautiful lifestyle’

When Lane embarked on creating a community that would “provide a beautiful lifestyle,” he spared no expense.

The ornate gate to Via Paradisus was designed by world-renowned metal fabricator and artist Jack Klahm of Ocala.

For a kickoff to the development’s opening in 2005, Lane hosted an event at which the Beach Boys – yes, those Beach Boys – performed.

He manicured the trees. He repaired or replaced much of the 29 miles of fencing surrounding the community. He bought land to establish a trailhead to the Greenway at the Southwest 110th Street entrance of Via Paradisus to give residents a second access point to its horse and biking trails.

Whatever sort of homesite you are looking for, whether it is a flat 5 acres or something bigger with a hilltop view, Via Paradisus has it.

Maybe Lane’s favorite spot within this North Central Florida paradise is a lot that rises to 146 feet elevation. Lane calls it “Sunset Hill” because of the spectacular sunset views that allow the viewer to look across the treetops of the Greenway.

“Via Paradisus is definitely a diamond in the rough here in Marion County,” he said.

Joan Pletcher Real Estate Network, Marion County’s premier horse property real estate broker, is the sales agent for Via Paradisus. She can be reached at (352) 266-9100 or at Lots start at 5 acres.

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