WESLEY CHAPEL — Developer Beat Kahli says the downtown core of Avalon Park Wesley Chapel represents a $736 million investment in streets, parking decks and space for offices, stores and urban residences.
To help keep things rolling, Pasco County is committing more than $33 million, mostly in a 30-year property tax rebate, for a portion of the infrastructure costs. Pasco County commissioners approved the economic incentive package Tuesday.
Formerly known as New River, the project carries the name Avalon Park West, but will be rebranded as Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, said Kahli.
The downtown, located on the north side of State Road 54 less than a mile west of Eiland Boulevard, is projected to include more than 350,000 square feet of commercial and office space and approximately 2,400 residences on 215 acres. The so-called traditional neighborhood design provides commercial and civic uses near the residences. The intent is to create a pedestrian-oriented community where people can walk, bike or drive a short distance to schools, shops, restaurants, offices and recreational space.
"It is our vision that Avalon Park Wesley Chapel will be a place where families can build memories and traditions together in a town they can call their own,'' said Kahli, CEO of Avalon Park Group/sitEX.
Under the incentive, the county would establish a tax-increment financing district in which a portion of the property tax revenue within the area’s boundaries will be rebated to the developer to pay for public facilities such as parking garages. The tax district is a strategy used countywide for transportation and in specific areas, like four of Pasco’s cities, for redevelopment. In this case, it would be for 30 years and account for a $32 million public subsidy to the downtown. It equates to about 38 percent of the public improvements that are expected to cost $83.2 million.
The rebate totals about 16 percent of the tax payments to the county over the 30-year life of the incentive, allowing the county to retain $166.5 million.
"We’re making money for the county. That’s an important point,'' said the developer’s land-use attorney, Clarke Hobby.
Separately, the county will provide a $1.25 million loan, financed by Penny for Pasco, to expedite construction of the first office building of at least 75,000 square feet. The downtown is expected to have a 10-year build-out and will include four freestanding Class A office buildings when completed.
A Pasco County Office of Economic Growth analysis said the project would create 1,065 full-time jobs and add $39.3 million annually to the local economy.
Kahli commended Pasco County officials, past and present, for encouraging the new-town neighborhood concept over traditional subdivisions that reinforced the county as a bedroom community to Hillsborough County.
"There was a change of heart in Pasco County,'' said Kahli. "There was a realization that only building homes is an economical loser. You need to build towns, not subdivisions.''
Upon completion, the 1,800-acre, 15,000-resident Avalon Park Wesley Chapel is projected to generate close to $198 million in property taxes to the county over a 30-year period, or $112 million more than a conventional suburban development on the same acreage, according to the developer.
Kahli, a native of Switzerland, took control of the land in 1998. It was a former limerock mine then-called New River. It has 2 miles of frontage along SR 54 and has entitlements for 4,800 homes. Already, the property has 1,000 homes built or under construction, and the New River Elementary school is on site.
The downtown welcome center doubles as a home to a Pasco Fine Arts Council gallery and serves as a satellite for the New River branch of the Pasco County library system. The downtown area broke ground in 2018. The Pinecrest Wesley Chapel Charter School is under construction there and scheduled to open for the coming school year.
"It’s an exciting project,'' said Commissioner Mike Moore whose district includes the Wesley Chapel project. "The addition of the Class A office space is vital to job creation and job development in the area.''
Avalon Park Group/sitEX also developed the Avalon Park mixed-use community in the east Orlando area of Orange County. That project, now called Avalon Park Orlando, is nearing completion and includes more than 5,000 homes and 700,000 square feet of commercial space in 29 multi-story buildings that include both businesses and residences. The company also is developing similarly designed projects in Daytona Beach and Tavares under the Avalon Park brand.
Kahli said the downtown core helps develop "a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a sense of safety. That is what we’re trying to do in Wesley Chapel.''