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Savoring Seasons

Carol Steinis is fascinated by her neighbors. Newly wed and newly retired, Steinis and her husband Rich sold their homes and headed south to begin their new lives together at Seasons at Prince Creek on Oct. 20.

"I will be perfectly honest," Carol said. "We went through a Realtor and one day he said he wanted to show me Seasons. I told him I was not going into a 55 and older community."

Then she looked at the Murrells Inlet community online.

"It was basically seeing a lot of activities for people our age," she said. "You know we're both 60-62 and the other communities we looked at - you know we have children, we like children - but at our age, the 29-year-old mother with three children is not the person I'm socializing with. I decided that perhaps it would be better to be in a community where people have similar interests and were at the same stage in our lives."

The activities offered for people in her age group were the deciding factor. Seasons has a full-time lifestyle director who helped residents coordinate more than 90 official activities in December.

The travel group went to the Biltmore, there were lunches for ladies, dinners for men and bowling. On site, residents played tennis, gathered to knit and had several holiday parties. Steinis is more active now with her neighbors of six weeks than she was with her Long Island neighbors for decades.

Andrea Harriss, who moved from Richmond to Seasons a year ago, said her life wasn't as active before moving to Seasons, either. Now, she's in love with water aerobics at the community's indoor pool, plays cards with two different groups several times a week, teaches bridge, quilts with friends, goes to book club and chairs the welcoming committee.

"This summer they put in shuffle board, bocce ball and new tennis courts and I just finally said, 'I've got to take my name off because I've got to get my house cleaned up.' I wasn't that busy before, but this is what we were looking for. We thoroughly enjoy it.

"You really have to go by a daily calendar, almost, and see what you are going to do the next day if you want to get everything in," she said. "It's almost impossible to belong to everything they have here."

The busy clubhouse is inside the gated community, a once bankrupt real estate venture that appeared to have launched itself at precisely the wrong time in real estate history. Developed by Levitt and Sons, the clubhouse and more than 50 houses sat incomplete until Dock Street Communities rescued the project in late 2009.

The Harrisses were the first to close on a home after Dock Street took over.

"We felt like we were taking a big chance at that time," Harriss said, "but it certainly has worked out really, really well. ... I think the biggest draw has been the people in the neighborhood. I thought it was going to be great when we bought, but I had no idea we would have this many opportunities to get into the neighborhood, to be welcomed as good as we were."

As for the project, Dock Street's 2010 sales record speaks for itself. By Dec. 4, the developer had sold 93 homes. All 58 of the houses left unfinished by the previous developer were completed and all but three of them have been sold.

The clubhouse, which has an indoor pool, showers, a billiard and card room, a fitness center and a warming kitchen, was upgraded this summer. Dock Street invested more than $1 million in improvements with an outdoor pool, fireplace, outdoor kitchen, and tennis and bocce courts.

A new 22,000-square-foot amenity center will be added next year with a theater, ballroom, office space, meeting room and new rooms for billiards and cards.

"We are seriously invested in the community," said Rainbow Russell, marketing director. "We are going to finish it. It's about a two- to three-year plan to finish it up from now. And at this rate, selling almost 100 homes a year, we'll be right there."

And Carol Steinis and Andrea Harriss will be right in the middle of it. Both are excited by the prospect of the continued growth of the community and the new neighbors it will bring.

"I really like listening to people and finding out the different things they have done in their lives, the different jobs they have done, the businesses they had and the places they have lived," Steinis said.

"It's really fascinating to speak to all these people and then find out we're all basically all the same," she said. "We've all decided to retire and enjoy ourselves and enjoy each other."

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