There certainly were many challenges in 2020, but also many good things to reflect on, that we are proud to share with you. Here are some highlights of the year from the team at Avalon Park Wesley Chapel.
Partnership with the Pasco Fine Arts Council
In 2020, Avalon Park Wesley Chapel continued its partnership with the Pasco Fine Arts Council and its East Pasco Fine Arts Gallery, which is located in the community’s Welcome Center.
Before the pandemic closed the gallery down in March, three shows were held for watercolor artists Joye Moon and Lionel Sanchez, as well as contemporary painter Richard Terrill, who also is a resident of Avalon Park.
This arts partnership began in 2019, led by Jo Baughman, longtime director of the Pasco Fine Arts Council (PFAC), who sadly died in September.
It was just a year earlier that Avalon Park’s executive team met with Baughman to offer their Welcome Center as a new gallery on the east side of the county. The developer also committed to building a permanent Arts Center in its downtown in coming years.
For Baughman, who was involved in the Pasco Fine Arts Council for 22 years, the invitation from Avalon Park Wesley Chapel to work together accomplished a long-held dream.
In the year that Baughman headed up activities at the East Pasco Fine Arts Gallery, there were bi-monthly art shows exhibiting the works of local artists, and several workshops for beginning and experienced artists. And, when the pandemic changed how people could meet, Baughman organized virtual art shows and workshops.
The loss of Baughman was especially emotional for Stephanie Lerret, who worked closely with Baughman to set up the location of the East Pasco Fine Arts Council at Avalon Park Wesley Chapel. “Jo had an unrivaled passion for the arts! Her desire to share that passion with others was an inspiration. We are blessed to have known Jo and to absorb her knowledge of the finer things,” said Lerret, senior vice president of the Avalon Park Group.
Pasco County Backs Downtown Avalon Park
In February, the Avalon Park Group received overwhelming support and backing from the Pasco County Commission to create a brand-new town center in its Wesley Chapel community.
Downtown Avalon Park Wesley Chapel is being established as a mixed-use development on 215 acres, and includes four freestanding office buildings that will have a mix of retail and commercial uses. The first phase is already under construction and, when completed, will have 75,000 square feet of commercial space within walking distance to residents living in the community’s single-family homes, townhomes and apartments.
“We are creating a real downtown with businesses offices, shops and restaurants, because we want to greatly reduce the need for our residents to drive outside their community to get to work, take kids to school, shop and dine, and enjoy indoor and outdoor activities,” said Lerret. “And now, with the full support of Pasco County, downtown Wesley Chapel will become a reality within the next few years.”
The Pasco County Commission unanimously voted to approve an incentive package totaling $33.5 million. The agreement outlines that in exchange, the Avalon Park Group will spend about $83.3 million to build roads, multi-story parking decks and transit-related infrastructure.
The project is expected to generate 1,065 full-time jobs and have a total economic output of $84.4 million, according to county documents.
Avalon Park Wesley Chapel will include 2,695 residences, 165,000 square feet of class A office and 190,000 square feet of commercial space. “Fifty percent of the residential trip generation on the site will stay on the site, once the project is complete,” said David Engel, manager of the county’s office of economic growth.
New Townhomes by Avex Homes
In April, Avex Homes introduced the first townhomes in Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, with two-car garages and private alleys in the rear.
“Our townhomes are beautifully designed with upscale custom finishes and offer buyers a tremendous value for the Wesley Chapel area,” said Cheryl Gonzalez, sales representative for Avex Homes. “Plus, every home comes with a two-car garage — something you rarely find in townhomes that begin under $250,000.”
Three floor plans are available, ranging from 1,608 square feet to 1,834 square feet, each with three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Homes are solidly built with families in mind, and rich in architectural design, with distinctive exteriors and open floor plans. Each home has a front porch, covered lanai or private breezeway that connects to the garage.
“Buyers love our townhomes’ cozy feel and old-fashioned, traditional look,” said Gonzalez. “Our buyers can upgrade their home’s finishes to their individual lifestyle and design preferences, including flooring, cabinetry, countertops and lighting. These are not cookie-cutter homes.”
New Avex Model Home
A beautiful new model home by Avex Homes opened in June. The new Clayton model is one of the builder’s most popular plans because its spacious floor plan is perfect for families of all kinds.
“This is my favorite floor plan because it’s very open, but at the same time, everything is very nicely tucked away, which makes it feel much larger than its 2,000 square feet,” said Carlie Meadows, a sales associate for Avex Homes.
Meadows explains that every home built by Avex Home comes standard with granite countertops, 42-inch kitchen cabinets and ceiling heights of 9 feet, 4 inches on both the first and second floors.
The home opens into its dining room, which shows off the open floor plan that flows into the great room and kitchen. The master bedroom suite is on the first floor — a very popular feature that is attractive to families with children, and empty-nesters. A huge walk-in closet is located through the master bath.
The two additional bedrooms upstairs are quite large, at 14.4 feet by 11.2 feet, and each has a large walk-in closet. A full bath is located between the two bedrooms.
D.R. Horton to Build 1,000 Homes
In July, D.R. Horton announced that it will be building 1,000 homes in Avalon Park Wesley Chapel as the exclusive builder in the third phase of this prestigious master-planned community.
Currently underway is the construction of several townhome and single-family home models, which will open in early 2021 in Avalon Park’s new Westgate Village community. Pre-sales are expected to begin soon.
Single-family homes will be built on 40-foot to 50-foot homesites, with nine floor plans ranging in size from 1,504 square feet to 2,601 square feet. Homes will offer three to five bedrooms, two to three baths, and two-car garages, giving families square-footage options that best meet their needs.
Townhomes will include three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and a one-car garage with a two-car driveway. Two floor plans will be available at 1,673 square feet and 1,758 square feet.
The Westgate Village community will embrace its own set of amenities for residents, including a resort-style pool, open-air clubhouse with an outdoor kitchen, playground, open sports field, and picnic area with pavilions.
New K-6 Charter School Opens
Few planned communities can boast of a tuition-free charter school at their main entrance. But this bragging right goes to Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, which is proud to welcome Pinecrest Academy Wesley Chapel.
The school opened its doors on Aug. 10 to over 600 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Students in all grades are immersed in new technologies, including robotics, and work in fully functioning STEM labs — something most schools do not offer.
“All Pinecrest schools have an emphasis on high-quality instruction. We’ll continuously be monitoring the data so we know what each student needs, and have many different programs available to focus on the needs of the individual student,” said Principal Aimee Mielke.
The school, on State Road 54, has several sections at every grade level, and will be adding seventh and eighth grades in coming years. The school also offers self-contained classrooms for gifted students, where pacing will be faster and performance tests much more in-depth.
Technology is an essential component of the new school, Mielke explained, and everything purchased for classrooms was chosen for student engagement. Laptops are provided for every student in grades two through six, as are iPads for first-graders and kindergartners.
Blue and green colors brilliantly burst along the hallways of the modern building that has 49 large classrooms, oversized art and music rooms, and high-tech science labs. The school is visually notable with unusual windows in the shape of half-moons, circles and squares that give students and faculty stunning lake and conservation views.
“Pinecrest Academy Wesley Chapel, along with New River Elementary, are essential elements of building a brand-new town,” said Lerret, of the Avalon Park Group. “We are ecstatic to have both schools in our community to give our residents the best options and opportunities for themselves and their children.”
New River Library to Reopen in January
After months of work, Pasco County Libraries in January is reopening its New River branch, which is located at the west entrance of Avalon Park.
Having a library in the center of the community is something residents truly love and value. The New River Library is being completely renovated, including expanding both the size of its building and outdoor areas. The county also is upgrading the library’s technology capabilities, and when the library reopens, will be a showpiece for all of Pasco County.
Visitors will love the library’s modern new look, covered walkway entry, much faster Internet speeds, expanded youth areas, and a makerspace that opens into a shaded classroom for outdoor activities.
Makerspaces are do-it-yourself centers that foster hands-on discovery and stimulate imagination. An expanded garden makerspace will include programs hosted by Pasco County Extension agents and master gardeners.
Also, new at the library will be a unique children’s activity, Story Walk, which will encourage children to follow a winding path where they will stop at stations and read pages from a storybook.
Published December 30, 2020