In the summer of 2017, AJ and Holly Neely packed up their lives with their three children and embarked on an over 800 miles journey from Arlington, Texas to Loveland, Colo. While AJ’s career as a pastor at Keystone Church brought them to the area, their children were at the forefront of their minds when selecting a neighborhood. At the top of their list of requirements was an incredible school and a place their kids – ages five, three and one – could play in the backyard and ride their bikes with the neighborhood kids. Being close to a Target and Chick-fil-A would be nice too. Then they found The Lakes at Centerra. It checked all of the boxes, plus some.

When you’re moving to a new city, it can be a stressful process to find the right house in the right neighborhood. It’s especially stressful when moving to a new state. To ensure the perfect fit for their family, the Neelys asked a ton of questions about the area before moving here. They talked with friends who live in the area, their realtor and even waiters at local restaurants to gather as much information as possible. They were pointed towards The Lakes at Centerra and immediately fell in love. In fact, they didn’t look around very much they just knew they wanted to live in The Lakes at Centerra and have their children go to High Plains School. So, they jumped in head first.

The most challenging part of their journey to Centerra was building their house remotely, from 800 miles away in Texas. AJ and Holly were up for the challenge though. After living in an older house in Texas and having to do a lot of remodeling work they were looking forward to a home that was fresh and new. While they were able to have a few visits to Loveland to check-in on the progress, unlike many owners of homes in The Lakes at Centerra, they weren’t able to be there for the whole process. Holly picked many of the finishes on FaceTime. Fortunately, they loved all of their choices!

Their favorite part of their new home is the layout and how much thought the builders put into creating a floor plan that works for families. They have spaces just for their kids, such as a game room, spaces just for adults and spaces the whole family can enjoy—like a big kitchen that opens up into their living room allowing everyone to be together. AJ and Holly also love inviting friends and family to their new home, and the layout is fantastic for hosting. They only moved in a few months ago, and they’ve already had family for the holidays, friends for dinner, and a huge Halloween front yard party for the whole neighborhood with everything from a bounce house to a fire pit for making s’mores.

The Neelys wanted a neighborhood where it was easy to meet other families with young children and get involved in the community. The Lakes at Centerra is the perfect place for doing just that. The whole neighborhood has a charming small-town feel. AJ and Holly have found that people are always outside with their families and everyone is friendly and inviting. It’s refreshing to live in a community where people want to be neighborly and take care of each other. That sense of community has allowed the family to get to know a lot of people in their neighborhood. AJ has even already put together a neighborhood softball team to play in Loveland’s recreational league.

Coming from a large city in Texas where there was a Target and a Chick-fil-A on every corner, AJ and Holly wanted to make sure that while they had the small-town feel in their immediate neighborhood, they also had access to big city amenities. Centerra was the perfect fit. The essential family store Target is close by, they have a wide variety of restaurants – although their kids really only like the places that serve pizza, like Old Chicago – AJ found a local coffee shop, Colorado Coffee Company, where he can work without any little interruptions, and they have easy access to parks and walking trails. The best part? They never have to leave Centerra. Everything they need and want is right there, even their children’s school.

The Lakes at Centerra was designed to connect the neighborhood with the school making it easy and safe for students to walk and bike to and from school; the Neelys live only six houses away from the High Plains School. Finding an excellent school for their children was top-priority for AJ and Holly. Their daughter now attends kindergarten at High Plains School, and they all love it. The school has a unique curriculum designed to challenge students to apply their knowledge to real-life situations through problem-based learning. Their daughter’s class was recently challenged to find a solution to people breaking trail rules at surrounding trails. After three field trips to learn about the problem, the class put together a solution and even presented it to local experts. It’s no wonder most families in The Lakes at Centerra send their children to High Plains School!

When the Neelys do leave Centerra, they’re probably on their way to Rocky Mountain National Park. The whole Neely family, even the youngest, loves to hike. The beauty of the outdoors and the accessibility to it are what AJ and Holly like best about living in Colorado. Even when they can’t get up to the Rockies, they have impeccably maintained parks right in their neighborhood and walking trails at High Plains Environmental Center, so they always have a place to be outside. It’s a unique feature of the area that allows them to create fun memories with their kids.

AJ and Holly didn’t leave Texas because they didn’t love living there. Now that they’ve had time to settle in Colorado they love their family’s new life. They love the dramatic Colorado landscape, the ability to enjoy the outdoors with their children and their proximity to everything they need. Best of all, they can enjoy everything while living in a beautiful new house in an incredible community they’re excited to call home.