A downtown area similar to this is on the horizon for Wesley Chapel after county commissioners recently approved an incentive package for the developers of Avalon Park Wesley Chapel. (Photo: Pasco County)

Avalon Park Group/sitEX is developing what some believe will serve as Wesley Chapel’s downtown (see separate story about this on page 8), plans which were paved by the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners (BOC), which has unanimously and enthusiastically approved up to $33 million of incentives for the public infrastructure project.

Developer Beat Kahli said Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, which previously has been called Avalon Park West, will be a place where residents can live, work and play without ever leaving their community. 

Kahli, the president and CEO of Avalon Park Group, also developed Avalon Park Orlando. He says he told those residents 20 years ago, “If you don’t want to leave, you don’t have to because we can satisfy all of your needs here…that’s our goal here.”

The BOC vote to approve the incentive package was 4-0. 

“It’s such a great project,” said District 3 Pasco commissioner Kathryn Starkey. “This will be downtown Wesley Chapel. They don’t have a downtown…they have (malls), which some people count as downtown, but this will really be the downtown of Wesley Chapel.”

District 2 commissioner Mike Moore, who represents much of Wesley Chapel, missed the meeting with an illness but says he, too, supports the plans.

“It’s definitely a great project,” Moore said. “It’s going to bring some much-needed Class A office space, which will lead to some high-paying jobs. That’s what I’m most excited about.”

The plan for Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, whose 215 acres are located east of Curley Rd. on the north side of S.R. 54, goes well beyond your typical subdivision.

The urban mixed-use center will have a 10-year buildout and boasts 2,695 residential units, 165,000 square feet of Class “A” office space and 190,400 square feet of commercial development.

The project will include four-story buildings, with neighborhood commercial on the bottom floor and the other three floors reserved for residential. 

There will be multiple parking decks and four freestanding Class A office buildings, which are typically larger, and feature top-of-the-line amenities and high-income tenants, and are located in a central location, which in this case would be the new downtown Wesley Chapel.

Avalon Park Wesley Chapel also will include two schools with capacity for 3,386 students — New River Elementary, which already exists, and Pinecrest Charter School, which is opening this fall.

According to David Engel, the manager of the county’s Office of Economic Growth, 50 percent of trip generation by Avalon Park Wesley Chapel will remain on site, resulting in a reduction of more than 14,000 trips a day on S.R. 54.

“That can solve traffic problems,” Kahli said. “Instead of building subdivisions, we have to build towns.”

The total cost of the Avalon Park Wesley Chapel proposal is $785 million. 

The county’s commitment to the $83.3 public infrastructure investment by Kahli will be $33 million via what is essentially a 30-year property tax rebate, provided the project hits certain benchmarks and triggers.

The deal also includes a $1.2-million loan (through the Penny for Pasco 1 cent sales tax ) to accelerate construction of the first office building, which is required to be at least 75,000 square feet and is one of the development agreement’s triggers.

The county says it will benefit greatly from the deal – 1,065 permanent jobs resulting in an estimated $42-million in payroll. A tax revenue forecast conducted by Wynne & Associates, LLC, said that over a 30-year period, the project will generate more than  $198 million in ad valorem property taxes alone, which is approximately $112 million more than a conventional, suburban development would bring in.

“The return on investment to the county is substantial,” Engel said. 

Moore said the success of Avalon Park Orlando is a good sign for Kahli’s efforts in Wesley Chapel.

“They have been very successful with the project in Orlando,” Moore says. “But, this is going to be bigger and better.”

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