Avalon Park Sun Orlando 25 Year Anniversary

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25

Years:

A Reflection and Future Vision

An Interview with Avalon Park Founder and Developer Beat Kahli

Precisely 25 years ago this December, marked the beginning of something special for Avalon Park Group. The official groundbreaking of the entrance bridge to Avalon Park Orlando kicked off an adventure of building a town where the mission was established to create a place where everyone can find a place to belong in a community where they could live, learn, work and play. Over the past 25 years, we have seen buildings built, families creating traditions, friendships being forged, and neighbors meeting neighbors and becoming so much more than just neighbors. I had the opportunity to speak with my mentor, the Founder and Developer of Avalon Park, Beat Kahli. Here is what he told me about the past 25 years in our flagship development, Avalon Park Orlando, and what Avalon Park Group can expect in the next 25 years and beyond.

It has now been exactly 25 years since the construction of Avalon Park started in the last quarter of 1997. Can you tell our readers more?

In 1989, we purchased 9,400 acres of land in East Orlando, called the Altman Ranch. For generations the land, which stretched all the way from presentday Wedgefield, was used for farming and hunting. The entire 9,400 acres (10 times the size of the Orlando downtown area) was zoned for development and had plans that called for a town of almost 100,000 residents, millions of square feet of retail and office space, 3 golf courses and more, and was considered one of the largest planned developments in America on the drawing board at the time.

However, listening to the community, we realized that building such a project would have been a tremendous challenge for the environment and public infrastructure. So, through a series of land sales to the St. Johns Water Management District by our development partnership, an agreement was made to create the Hal Scott Preserve Park in lieu of commercial real estate development on 8,900 acres of the original acreage zoned to be Avalon Park. Maybe in another generation when most of the land between Tampa and Daytona Beach will be developed, people may be proud of our own “Central Park” (the Hall Scott Preserve Park), 10 times larger than its Flagship in New York City.

The agreement left Avalon Park as an 1,860-acre development, which includes, 240 acres of wetlands, 400 acres of upland preserve, 250 acres of man-made lakes, walking/biking trails. Approximately 1% of the plans included 3,400 single-family units, 1,431 multi-family units and approximately half a million square feet of commercial space, remains to be developed today.

Stephanie:

I have often heard you tell the story of a bridge loan to build “The Bridge” from Alafaya Trail into Avalon Park. Can you elaborate on that monumental event which provided the official start to Avalon Park Orlando?

Beat:

We had a dream to build a town where all people, generations, races, and social economics could live, learn, work, and play. And because being a pioneer is rarely easy, it was hard to find money for the development of Avalon Park at first. So while the Traditional Neighborhood Design “TND” design principals that were planned made sense in prewar development, urban sprawl had become the new norm of development and none of the national homebuilders wanted to participate and none of the banks wanted to take the risk of lending us money.

I was on “my knees” going around to the banks in Orlando. Finally, I found a bank, who at the time had just expanded from Alabama to Orlando. The bank was willing to lend money for a bridge. The bridge would cross a small tributary of the Econlockhatchee River and be at the beginning of Avalon Park Boulevard. In banking terms, a bridge loan, means a short-term loan, to bridge a financial gap. For Avalon Park it meant the money to build a true bridge, and construction of it started exactly 25 years ago, just before the holidays in 1997. For the loan, the bank got a mortgage on all the land, the full personal guarantees of my wife, Jill and I, and more as collateral. That loan has long since been paid back. Often, when I drive over that bridge, I think about what would have happened if I would not have gotten that “bridge loan.”

25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION 2022 KEEPING THE NEWS LOCAL.... AND THE COMMUNITY CONNECTED. LIVE PAGE 8 PAGE 10 PAGE 16 PAGE 2 WORK
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PAGE 16 COMMUNITY UPDATES

Stephanie:

Avalon Park was the most successful master planned community in Central Florida several years in a row (2003/04/05/06). The land was at the end of a 2-lane road, next to a power plant and landfill. Not quite the location one would think to build a town. Why do you think Avalon Park has been so successful?

Beat:

I agree! No question the location was not the classical great location. However, the dream was strong enough, timing was excellent and most important the team who shared my dream, with key people like yourself, with tremendous hard work, passion and dedication made the journey successful for all stakeholders.

A component of a great community is high property values for all. With APG as the largest owner of real estate in Avalon Park and many other business interests in the community, the alignment is evident. Cutting corners hurts APG economically more than anybody else.

Stephanie:

When you talk to Avalon Park Families, and ask them what made them move to Avalon Park, I hear many reasons, the small-town feeling, the events, the architecture and more, however the great schools seem to be for many the most important reason they moved to Avalon Park. Avalon Park has the best public schools in Central Florida, can you explain the background of our schools?

Beat:

Before we broke ground, more than 25 years ago, I did not have any kids of my own. In order to find out what would make realtors support Avalon Park, I asked them during a focus group to tell us what we could do to make Avalon Park their community of choice for home buyers. The overwhelming response was: SCHOOLS, GREAT SCHOOLS, NEW SCHOOLS, SCHOOLS IN CLOSE PROXIMITY. I was more prepared to get requests, such as a large water park, a golf course (which was approved for Avalon Park, but we decided to build a downtown instead), etc. But great schools were what all the realtors told us would make their clients move to Avalon Park.

The marching order was clear, however the first meeting with the Orange County School Board was rather “sobering.” We were told that maybe in about 10 years could we build schools in Avalon Park. However, a dialogue started quickly, and we found out that when the government and the private sector truly work together, amazing results can be achieved. The 7 schools in and around Avalon Park were all built as Public Private Partnerships and always with the goal to have the best schools in Central Florida. Out of the 7, four were built and financed by APG. In the others, APG either donated the land or built infrastructure, such the Timber Creek High School football stadium and the band’s marching field and more. The plan worked! Our community consistently boasts all A schools! And on top of that 2 have achieved Blue Ribbon status, meaning among the top 300 best schools in America. To this day, I consider that this is maybe the single most important reason for the success of Avalon Park.

Having grown up in Kansas and loving the small-town concept from the beginning, it always fills me with a sense of pride when I see how people go through life starting with pre-K, going through the great public A schools, starting a family, and living all stages of their life in Avalon Park. I often get asked, what is the secret behind the success of Avalon Park? Why was it, from a classical real estate point of view an inferior location at the edge of town, by far the fastest selling community at the time of building?

Beat:

It needs a team; it needs passionate people like you Stephanie. You can have all the money in the world, a world-class planner, top engineers and more, but in the end you have to create a PLACE. A PLACE where people feel a strong sense of BELONGING and SAFETY. You need to be connected with the residents, at events, the schools, restaurants. You need to live, learn work and play with your constituents, and you need to align with them, and with the community at large.

APG owns the majority of Downtown Avalon Park. The typical developer buys land, pursues entitlement, plans, engineers and builds infrastructure, such as roads, sewer/water lines, drainage systems, amenities and more. After that, the land gets sold in parcels piece by piece to home builders, commercial builders, residential builders, and others. And then the developer is gone, often with a handsome profit in good times and sometimes broke in a recession. However, for the classical developer the investment is at its largest in the early phases of development, where they are buying land and building infrastructure. After that, the classical developer sells off their investments, makes a profit and is out of the picture. APG on the other hand has a different business concept. Today APG has its highest investment in the community since starting construction 25 years ago. APG and affiliates own buildings and land in Avalon Park valued in the 3-digit millions.

Having an investment of this size aligns with all stakeholders. APG has the same interest as a parent, a homeowner, or a retailer: a great community with outstanding schools, well-kept common areas and amenities, good traffic solutions and more.

Stephanie:

Do you remember your first homeowner association meeting?

Beat:

I do, and funny enough, more than 50% of all households were present. (Meaning about 30, when around 50 homes were built). Today, we are lucky if out of the more than 4,000 households 4 people show up to our monthly HOA meetings.

Challenges were quite different a quarter century ago. Concerns included things like controlling the wild boar population, deer eating the flowers in the yards of residents, and nails from construction of homes were causing flat tires.

We were able to dialogue one-on-one with each homeowner and one of them asked me to explain what live, learn, work, and play meant. Well, I explained that probably the best way to describe it is if you do not want to leave Avalon Park, you do not have to. You can satisfy all of your daily needs of you and your family without having to leave the community. At the time of the first meeting there were only a few homes and the downtown had not started yet, so my explanation included the future development. I explained that there would be schools for all ages, jobs, stores for all needs, restaurants, doctor offices, events and more. It was hard to believe with 50 homes in the middle of nowhere at the time (1999). Sometimes today a resident tells me “I have not left Avalon Park at all for 3 months...” In other words: Mission Accomplished! Homes, town homes and apartments for all ages and price ranges, a grocery store, drug store, 28 restaurants, schools with 10,000 student stations, awesome events and on, and on and on. In short, a complete town, where you can live, learn work and play.

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25 YEARS
Stephanie: From 100 cows to thousands of neighbors...

Stephanie:

If you could go back 25 years, what would you do differently?

Beat:

Good question, but not much. We would likely allocate more land for the downtown, (and we are doing this in Avalon Park Wesley Chapel and Avalon Park Daytona). As well we would engage the government more, at last the largest economical benefactor of us building the town of Avalon Park is Orange County. Today the economic value of Avalon Park for Orange County exceeds $1 Billion. From just a parcel of land used for hunting and farming, to now millions in property taxes going to the County every year, jobs created, and sales tax on top of it. And because Avalon Park residents can satisfy their daily needs “internally” as a traffic engineer would say, the burden on roads, the environment et all is reduced, compared to a “standard” community, with only homes, and the need to get in the car for everything else.

The team and I feel really privileged to have learned a lot and we are now able to use our experiences in Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, Daytona, Tavares and in our entrepreneurial undertakings around the globe.

Stephanie:

As a member of the APG senior management team, I am aware of the many lines of business of APG and the global footprint that we have with on every continent of the world. I’m often asked who is on the Board of Avalon Park Group. We know you that you are the Founder and CEO, along with a team of senior managers, but who are the Board of Directors?

Beat:

APG does not have the classical Board of Directors. You know that

it is you, Ross, Marybel, Mari, Cynthia, JJ, Trey, and Eric supported by Nicole, Patty, Alba, Zoralis, Jan, Eric, Michelle, Kenzie, Marielle, Alex, Nery, Matt and the maintenance team, Yelinska, Jessica, Carlos and Kim. Of course, we have procedures, rules and regulations to follow. However, I believe what we do as a development company and the building of the town of Avalon Park, could not have been done by a “classical” company. I am very thankful for the awesome team. From Founders Hall to the Clock Tower building, to the 3680 Avalon Blvd Building and now on the 4th floor of the Avalon Innovation Center, we have moved 4 times. All of those moves were within 100 yards of each other over a quarter century, but most important we stuck together in great and challenging times. And when asked about the secret of success it is just that! As you know, our mission is to change the way the world lives, learns, works and plays, and I believe that starts with the passion and drive our team shows every day in building towns.

With just 1% left to go in the development, I would say that you have successfully built a town over the last 25 years. What can we expect in Avalon Park over the next 25 years?

Beat:

While there is just 1% of vacant land left in Avalon Park Orlando left to build on, you will see a significant amount of important development on that remaining piece. In line with the original master plan that has been in place for the past 25 years, you will see us breaking ground very soon on additional senior living housing, a boutique hotel, large pool and additional commercial uses. Once complete it may be time to start some redevelopment on some of the first buildings, as well as continue to support the management of commercial property and programming in the Downtown. We will also focus on replicating the successes of this community across our other central Florida developments in Wesley Chapel, Tavares and Daytona Beach.

It Started with a “Bridge Loan” that Actually Financed the Construction of a Bridge

A little over 25 years ago I recall gathering for a loan committee meeting of a local bank and one of the loans presented for approval that day struck me as being “out of the norm”. The request was for $1,250,000 to finance the construction of a bridge at the entrance to an 1,860-acre tract of land that would eventually be called “Avalon Park”. My colleague, Joe Lambert, who was presenting the loan request faced a barrage of challenging concerns and questions:

“This property is way out on Alafaya Trail, almost to the power plant!” and “Why would anyone want to live that far out?”

“So you’re telling us the developer of this project, Beat Kahli, is from Switzerland and he has no experience in developing real estate in Orlando, let alone a project of this size?”

Joe patiently answered the questions and what started to become clear was that he believed in Mr. Kahli and that Beat had a vision for this project, together with a well-thought-out plan to bring his vision to fruition. So, with a leap of faith and an admonition to Joe, “this better work out!” we approved the bridge loan that actually financed the construction of a bridge.

Approximately a year and a half later, Joe chose another employment opportunity, and I was assigned to the Avalon lending relationship. By this time, the first phase of the Avalon Park development was well underway and as we bounced through the roughly graded terrain in Beat’s non-four-wheel drive sedan I quickly realized the size and scope of the project was most impressive. As the first homes were built and the feel of the Traditional Neighborhood Development emerged with Founder’s Square, I saw Beat’s vision being realized and knew Avalon Park was truly going to be a unique and special community.

One of my first impressions of Beat was his ability to think outside of the box to solve problems. I recall an example shortly after I met him as he thought of a creative solution to provide the roadway needed to access the new Timber Creek High School that was under construction. While the school construction was progressing as planned, the connecting road to the school had not been started and

would delay the opening of the school. Recognizing the positives of having a new high school open to serve the future residents of Avalon Park, Beat came up with a “win-win” solution to construct the extension of Avalon Park Blvd. to the school, providing access to the residents in the area.

Little did I know nearly 25 years ago this would be the beginning of an incredible relationship and friendship with Beat; one in which I and the banks I worked for would have the privilege of partnering with him and his Avalon Park team to finance a variety of projects, including a ready mix concrete plant, the initial phase of development in a large master-planned community north of Tampa that is known today as Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, and most recently, the construction of an apartment complex on one of the last remaining parcels in Avalon Park Orlando as this community nears completion. It has truly been a pleasure to see Beat’s vision of Avalon Park come to fruition and to play a small part in the 25year journey from an entrance bridge to a vibrant community that several thousand residents have chosen as their home.

25 YEARS

1989

Avalon Park Orlando Purchased

1998

First House Sold

2000-2001

Clock Tower Built (2000), Avalon Elementary School Opened (2000) & Timber Creek High School Opened (2001)

1997

Groundbreaking of Entry Bridge

1999

First Home Owners Moved In & Founder’s Hall Built

2005

Tanja King Park Built, Wells Fargo/ Sage Dental & South Village Community Center Built

2002-2004

Town Center I Built (2002), Primrose School Opened (2003), Professional Center (2003) & Publix and Gas Station (2004)

2007

Avalon Center for Academic Excellence Opened, Suntrust/ Dental Office Built, Town Park Built & CVS Opened

2006

Stone Lakes Elementary School Opened, Avalon Middle School Opened & Town Center II Built

25 YEARS

2009-2011

Keith A. Ewing Medical Office Built (2009), & Live/Work Units Built (2009)

2014

Encore at Avalon Park Built, Alafaya Trail Widening & Town Center III Built

2020-2021

Avalon Innovation Center Opened & Phase 2 Live/Work Units Built

Flagpole Lot Future Development - 2023 and Beyond

2008

Trustco Building Built, Fairwinds Built, Avalon Church Built, Shoppes and Offices at Avalon Park Built, Avalon Church Opened & Avalon Office Ventures Built

2012-2013

Creative World Opened (2013)

2015-2019

Avalon Park Pavilion Built (2017), Pinecrest Avalon Elementary Opened (2018), Innovation Way Connection Built & Kids R Kids Opened (2020)

2022

Town Center IV Built & Avalon Arts and Culture Center Opened

25 YEARS
Future

Back to the Beginning: My Story

From That to This!! As I think back over my 20 years as a realtor or bro ker, working with clients and the real estate business has changed so much. I’ve enjoyed some of the changes and others, not so much. When I opened Avalon Realty Group in 2003 the most important piece of high-flying technology was a good fax machine. Remember fax es? Now you can’t even give them away!

in person then faxed to the listing agent who in turn would print them and hand delivered to sellers for their signatures. Counter offers ini tialed, faxed back and forth until ne gotiations where completed. Some times our contracts would be almost unreadable. Often it would take 3-4 days to finalize a sale. There was so much more face to face inter action. I think it’s been 4-5 years since I’ve handwritten an offer. The documentation required in a real estate transaction is significantly easier with the advent of Digital sig natures. In the past I would drive my clients to view neighborhoods but now, the street view on Google maps is used to check out commu nities. Prospective clients rarely in terview me now, they just check out my online reviews.

builder’s model home, we would stand in line hoping our name would be called. The joy people’s faces were palatable when their name was called. Like so many others, we suffered tremendous loss during the financial crisis and its eventual collapse. My own home, bought in 2007, returned to its original pur chase price in 2021. So many of us experienced the extraordinary in crease in home prices during Covid driven by a severe local and nation al housing shortage, and ultra-low interest rates.

Back then, each morning the MLS would fax us all new listings. I would look through them for my clients, go view each home, then call my clients, describe the home, and if necessary, schedule an appointment for us to see the home. There were little or no online resources for Buy ers. Everything was printed, either in Weekend Paper or Homes for sale magazines. As a listing agent, we would host “Broker’s Opens,” encouraging local area agent to view the home for themselves and for their clients. Not anymore! As internet bandwidth and speed in creased, everything we need is on line such as quality photos, videos, and instant access to mountains for information.

When my client wanted to submit an offer, we would meet in person. Offers were all handwritten, signed

During the 19 years I’ve owned Avalon Realty Group I’ve experi enced the highs and lowest of the Real Estate market. I’ve watch Ava lon grow from a small community “tucked away at the end of Alafaya Trail” a thriving community were “Live, Learn, Work, and Play” has become a reality. This is a pho to of the sign was used to promote our New Year celebration, held in Founder’s Square.

In closing, I’m beyond grateful to have been a real estate broker in Avalon Park for 19 years, the second longest operating business in here. The journey from then to now has been enjoyable, difficult, fun, chal lenging, and yet the best part of all are the friends we’ve made and the clients we’ve served over the years. Thank You!!

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John Alexandrou - Broker/Owner since 2003 | Avalon Realty Group: 3925 Peppervine Dr., Orlando, FL 32828 407-312-3928 | AvalonRealty@gmail.com
Experiencing the crazy housing boom of 2004-2006 where, in the First New Year’s Eve Event Sign in 2003

3rd Generation of Living in Avalon Park

We are 3rd generation deep living here now, and 2nd generation deep of growing up here…

The things we love the most about living, learning, working & playing in Avalon (since 2002) are: The hundreds of acres of nature, parks, creeks & green space within the community in addition to the thousands of acres of preserve it abuts, the true “small-town feel” we get when we visit any part of the town center by day or night-it’s always nice to see familiar faces, the public and private school choices- all being the best in their category for many miles, the fact that the developer and team are still here devel oping- not only finishing up the town center, but cultural development with the new Arts Center & continuously adding new unique community events for all to participate in, while developing further and deeper relationships with commu nity members and partners which, in turn, will take the home, business & building values to record new heights, yet again…to name a few…

Here’s to 25 years of the “original” Avalon Park, and to 25 more being even better than the last!

A Strong Sense of Gemütlichkeit

My family and I have had the true pleasure of living in Avalon Park for twenty-one years. Avalon really lives up to it’s motto of live, learn, work and play. The well designed and very functional layout of Avalon Park lends itself to a true community, The numerous festivals and resident gatherings gives Avalon Park a strong sense of gemütlichkeit!

My son Philip has his business Top Florida Homes Realty located in downtown Avalon. He, his wife Gisele and their two children all live, learn and work in Avalon. My daughter Julianna has attended all the schools here from Primrose, Avalon Middle up to Timbercreek High School. The music and drama programs at Timber Creek have helped shape her as an individual and guided her into the career in

music she has today.

As a residential and commercial realtor for over twenty years I could write a book! I have helped hundreds of families with their real estate needs here. And I have brought several businesses into Avalon and have enjoyed watching them grow and contribute to the thriving downtown of Avalon. My long-time involvement with the HOA, Rotary, the YMCA and churches have kept me happily busy and contributing to our great community. Now I am blessed with seeing my grandchildren grow up in Avalon Park.

I look forward to hopefully having an active seniors component to Avalon Park so I can continue to live here.

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Happy Anniversary Avalon Park! I Will Always Consider You My Home

In 2004, my wife and I purchased a home in Avalon Park so that we could more effectively build and grow a house of worship in this wonderful community. We will always have a deep sense of gratitude to Beat Kahli and the Avalon Park Group for recognizing that in addi tion to schools, restaurants, parks, homes and businesses, Avalon Park would also need a place for its residences to worship. In 2005, we began working together to see

this dream become a reality and after many obstacles and delays, in 2008, the community held its first worship ser vice in a brand-new facility. Located next door to Avalon Elementary, and across the street from Tanja King Park, this building and the people who gather there have been a beacon of light and a source of spiritual connection for over 14 years. Thank you, Avalon Park, for your support and partnership! There is no other place on the planet I’d rather Live, Learn, Work, and Play (and worship) than Avalon Park!

Watching Someone’s Dream and Vision Come True

When I first came to Avalon in 2000 to plan and then open Avalon Elementary School I met with Beat Kahli. We both exchanged our visions for our new endeavors. I explained my philosophy for a school of excellence. He talked about building a town where people could live, work and play. Both of us where very animated and excited about our projects.

As I pulled out of Avalon I saw a few model homes, a small deli where you could get breakfast or lunch and also buy a newspaper, milk and bread. There was some hous ing construction and dirt roads to the school construction site. I could see my tasks as very doable. Buy furniture and books for the building. Hire a staff. Write curricu lum and set the expectations for helping every students become successful.

But how could my new friend build an entire city. He was eager and appeared to have the energy of ten men.

Over the years I had the great privilege of watching my friends dream and vision come true. I watched roads be ing paved. More and more houses were built and a few store fronts opened. Then Avalon Park Blvd was built and extended all the way to Colonial (highway 50). As Avalon Park continued to grow the Avalon Park Blvd cor

ridor began to develop. The cow pastures changed and became new subdivisions. Avalon Park proper continued to grow. With in a few years of opening our elementary school went from 400 students to 1,500 students. Two new schools were opened to relieve our over crowding. So many people wanted to move to Avalon that at one point there were lotteries held to buy a house. People didn’t care which model; they just wanted to live in Avalon.

As I drive into Avalon today I fondly remember the joy I had watching this town grow from it’s very humble be ginnings. It still amazes me that one man with a vision built everything I see for miles in every direction in twen ty five years. How did the beautiful parks, homes, apart ments, condominiums, store, churches, restaurants and recreational facilities, and events just spring to life? How could one person lead a team to accomplish a wonderful environment that thousands enjoy everyday as they live, work and play in Avalon.

l treasure the friendship Beat Kahli and I started the first day we met and still continue today . I am so proud of my friend and proud of this beautiful community so many now call home. Twenty Five years later Beat is still here in Avalon today. He has surrounded himself with a large highly developed staff who make life for everyone here better.

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A Letter from Julie at JK Creative

Dear Beat and the Avalon Park Group,

As I sit and reflect on things I’m Thankful for this year, I felt compelled to send a little note your way...

In 2019, my husband and I decided to leave Maryland and re locate to the Orlando area when a job opportunity popped up. We didn’t know anyone here or honestly much about Orlando (other than the fact we loved Disney World). When we took a trip to explore areas to consider moving to, we instantly fell in love with Avalon Park. We noticed people out walking and biking, kids playing, neighbors talking to each other. (That just didn’t seem to be the norm where we lived before.) We noticed the nice amenities and cute downtown area filled with small businesses. While initially we thought we wanted to be as close to the theme parks as possible, we decided the whole point of leaving the North East was for a better pace of life. So, we decided to purchase a home in South Village and made the move to start our new chapter.

While my husband had a new job to start, I being an entrepre neur, balanced getting our personal life settled and figuring out moving my company to a new state. I had planned on real ly hitting the ground running in the beginning of 2020, getting out, and networking in this new city. But we all know what happened at the beginning of 2020. The Pandemic caused many businesses to struggle and mine unfortunately was one of them. The emails started flooding in with messages of can celled projects and contracts until my project schedule halt ed to zero jobs coming in. While surviving on pandemic re sources from the government that were quickly running out, I questioned if I could even turn things around and thought this might be the end of my company. But then there was a small glimmer of hope: The Avalon Innovation Awards. I applied and presented JK Creative though a few rounds of pitches to eventually find out that I had received one of the top prizes in cluding cash, services, and an office in a new coworking space. It was at this moment life truly turned around. I went from thinking about having to shut down my business to starting on an amazing path of growth.

I moved into my office at the 5th Floor, and started connect ing with amazing people in this little town. A connection here would lead to another one there, and soon I was meeting and working with many other businesses across East Orlando, and many connections even quickly turned into friends. The grant helped support growth for JK Creative such as bringing on a new employee, getting new tech and processes in place, pur chasing new equipment, and paying for organization mem berships and education. This has led to a snowball effect of gaining new business and achieving milestones like winning awards, being published, and even recently competing on a reality TV show for entrepreneurs. I truly think moving here

ended up saving my business, because if I had still been up North I would have faced the same issues and without the award I’m not sure I could have turned things around.

As the last couple years have gone by I have settled into an amazing life here. I wake up in a house I love surrounded by great neighbors and friends. Many days I take a walk around the neighborhood enjoying the outdoors before I make my quick commute to downtown Avalon. I work in a beautiful of fice surrounded by plenty of opportunities to grab great meal or run a quick errand. It’s usually a guarantee I will run into many friendly faces throughout my day as well. There are so many events throughout the year where my husband and I can walk downtown to shop local vendors, soak up entertain ment, and even see fireworks. We really are living, working, and playing in this community and we feel so lucky that we found this place. It is the perfect balance of a relaxed small town but is still so accessible to opportunities in the rest of Orlando and beyond.

So, I just wanted to say thank you for creating this place that we now call home. And thank you for giving back with the Avalon Innovation Awards during a tough time for many. I hope you truly realize what you did for me and many others. You didn’t just help my business survive during the pandem ic, but now I can say we are truly thriving. I can’t wait to see where the next few years will lead!

Avalon Park Cleaners

Jayesh and Meena Khatri opened Avalon Park Cleaners in the Clock Tower building in 2001 as the first business in downtown Avalon Park. They are still operating today out of a different location in the Publix Shopping Center.

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Original Location Current Location Current Location

A Letter from Jeff Fuqua, Amick Construction and Long-Time Chairman of the Orlando International Airport

Dear Beat,

Congratulations on the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of your outstanding Avalon Park Orlando community! I am pleased and honored to have been invited early on by you to play a role in its creation, so thank you for that. I am also happy to offer a few words about participating in the project along the way.

Uniquely among private developers, you started the project beginning with raw, undeveloped land and have managed the development of the project through to its essential completion. Throughout, you have been involved in the community, have developed and maintained an interest in the Avalon Park downtown and overseen the completion of the master plan, creating along the way a remarkable community.

I recently had the privilege of touring a group of City officials, from a city in which Avalon Park Group was contemplating a development, through Avalon Park Orlando. One senior official remarked “I would like to have a home in the Avalon Park development in our community,” quite a compliment, I would say.

In the beginning what was to become Avalon Park Orlando was quite different. The future Avalon Park was somewhat remote from downtown Orlando and was part of an 8,000-acre parcel on both sides of the Econlockhatchee River, of rather low elevation and tending to be rather wet during the summer rains.

As to remoteness, on my first visit to the property it felt like I was heading to Cocoa Beach. Fortunately for me as a site contractor the project was much closer than that and your vision was much stronger than mine. I was selected to start in unit 2 of the project and thankfully stayed on as

site contractor until the completion of all the infrastructure for the project.

You were, in those days, a curious and hands-on developer so you would frequently visit the areas of the project under construction. As mentioned, at times the site was quite wet, and the areas recently filled with dirt quite loosely compacted resulting in you becoming mired in the mud in your automobile. Fortunately, help was usually readily available as there were numerous pieces of heavy equipment available to drag the automobile to safety.

Early in the project special care was needed to keep the construction equipment from becoming stuck as well. At one point it was necessary to build a path using quite a large quantity of hay bales to navigate the equipment to a particular job site in Avalon. Something we had failed to price into the job!

On another occasion, very early in development, workers were quite excited about sighting several tiny baby alligators on a portion of the site. They were less excited when someone remarked that “mom” could not be far away!

Riding through Avalon Park Orlando today, it is difficult to envision the description of the early days during when it was under construction. It is today, a vibrant mixed-use community which has been created with respect and care for its unique location alongside its environmentally sensitive neighbors, the Econlockhatchee River and the Hall Scott Preserve. That is indeed quite an accomplishment!

Best wishes, Jeffry B Fuqua President, Amick Construction, Inc.

A Dream Fulfilled with a Brain and Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Facility in Avalon Park

When I look back over the years, I remember Christmas of 2003 as being one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. I was invited out to a Christmas event in Avalon Park, Avalon Aglow, and that is when I fell in love with this community. While I was there looking around, I was so impressed. I had been looking for a place this beautiful that would help me open a transitional living facility for people with spinal cord injuries, like myself. The facility I went through when I got hurt was forced to close, and so people had nowhere to go to learn how to care for themselves and live independently. I had been struggling to find a place for a long time, and Avalon Park seemed like the perfect place for it. I came back out the next

day to meet with Beat. He was the nicest man and understood my vision to bring a place where those with brain and spinal injuries could rehabilitate in an environment that would not only give them independence but thrive. I couldn’t believe that he agreed to help me fulfill my dream by making this a reality in Avalon Park. I was so excited because I had been looking for years to get this done but had not found the right partners. But Beat and his then CFO, Keith Ewing, were able to help make my dream come true. I can now proudly say we now have the best facility you could ask for, right here in beautiful Avalon Park. And I am so happy that many others with brain and spinal cord injuries will have the opportunity to rehabilitate in a community where they can also live, learn, work and play!

WORK (Cont.)

Growing Up with the Community Spirit of Avalon Park

Spring 2020. As I biked around Avalon Park, the streets seemed only too quiet. When I think back now at memories of pedaling down those roads, bags of fabric masks we’d sewn for donation tucked into my bike basket, I think about how much Avalon Park has come together before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and even more now.

Avalon Park has never failed to make us feel like part of a community. In winter 2003, the Avalon Park Sun, known at that time as the East Orange Sun, posted an article about the second annual Gingerbread House Party we threw at our old house. Following Hurricane Katrina, I remember how the neighborhood hosted our own Mardi Gras to raise money for disaster recovery efforts. In 2014, my family received the Merry-N-Bright award for Best Use of Lights, and we felt touched that we made our neighbors’ day with our Christmas decorations. Those combined with the We [heart] Avalon with the elementary school students of my class, the neighborhood events that bring everyone together like Spooktacular, Oktoberfest, Avalon Aglow, and the Easter Egg Hunt (which gave me the opportunity to volunteer as the Easter Bunny one year), we’ve never felt isolated, like a house merely surrounded by other houses.

That said, the irony is not lost on me that we never felt isolated when simultaneously, we spent much of the last two years doing just that—isolating ourselves from each other, even if it’s for the health and safety of our friends and family. Even with all that, though, as I biked down the empty streets with mask donations in tow, it felt like we were only closer to each other. The volunteering spirit—the ability to do good as a community, for our community—has run strong through our memories of Avalon Park, and I can only hope we can continue with that spirit going forward.

From the Desk of Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero

I am happy to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Avalon Park! Since the founding of this community, Avalon has grown considerably. Encompassing nearly 12,000 residents according to the 2020 census, Avalon Park has advanced to become a local destination for dining, family activities and even the arts. It is hard to imagine that just 25 years ago, Avalon was just an idea.

Now, this community has become an example of diversity and inclusion for all of Central Florida. With easy to access to schools, services and jobs, it has truly become one of the best places to live in in Orange County. I am proud and blessed to continue representing it on the Orange County Board of County Commissioners.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, my door is always open. If you would like to receive my newsletter or contact my office, you can email me at district4@ocfl.net or call at 407-836-5881.

Happy Holidays to you and your families!

PLAY
Blessings, Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero

How Our Family Lives, Learns, Works & Plays in Avalon

When it comes to Orlando, our family is about as local as they come. My husband and I were both born and raised here, and my siblings and I were born at the hospital just 10 miles from where we live now. We, like our parents, grew up here when there was nothing but cow fields and orange groves and yes, those stories are true. As our city developed, our family continued to inch further and fur ther East.

LIVE

We moved to the Avalon Park area just shy of 13 years ago. Since then, we have raised two amazing children, and recently welcomed our first grandson who also lives in the area. My mother-in-law has called Encore at Ava lon Park Assisted Living and Memory Care Community her home for the past five years, and my parents live just a few miles away. With five generations centered around my grandparents, and all of us living within a 20-mile ra dius, family events can get a little crowded. We have had holiday parties, a baby shower, a 50th anniversary, and first birthday at the Avalon Community Room and cele brated my cousins wedding in the Ballroom at The Pavil ion at Avalon Park.

LEARN

Education and top-notch schools are one of the biggest draws to the Avalon Park area. Our children and grand child have locally attended and graduated from nursery, preschool, elementary, middle and high school. As a fam ily we have attended seminars at Encore regarding de mentia and senior care, as well as a number of charitable and educational events on The 5th Floor. Our family has enjoyed learning and spending time together in our com munity through volunteering and doing acts of service. Avalon offers limitless opportunities for citizens and fam ilies to volunteer. Service is encouraged and nurtured from a young age with organizations like K-Kids, Honors Society and Scouts and carried over into adulthood with civic organizations like Rotary Club and Kiwanis. Some of our best memories with our children have been watch ing them discover the value of volunteering and learning the joy of giving by helping others.

WORK

I opened my company Evolution Medical Technologies (EVO-MED) in 2011. We are a small woman owned busi ness, that provides biomedical implants to hospitals and surgeons throughout the United States and overseas. In early 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the Avalon Park group announced it had created the Entrepreneur Fund to support and empower local entrepreneurs and business owners in the rapidly changing business climate. EVOMED was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the top five 2020 Innovator Award Recipients, which included a generous personalized award package and office space at The 5th Floor in the brand-new Avalon Park Innovation Center, located in the heart of downtown Avalon. This award offered my company the chance to reset, refresh, and reengage at a time of great uncertainty not only in my industry, but across the world. In early 2021 I opened a local office at The 5th Floor, a stunning and modern pro-working environment comprised of various sized offices, meeting rooms and versatile coworking spaces. This space was thoughtfully designed to foster communi ty, collaboration, and growth in entrepreneurship. Not to mention, WOW what a view!

Since winning the award I have had time to focus on things like mission, branding and growth. EVO-MED has expanded our presence in the US and opened markets in 3 new countries, with entry into two others slated for 2023. We have partnered with the Avalon Park Group, Our Legacy, and Donate Life Florida to raise community awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation. We’ve worked together on multiple events including Absolutely Avalon’s first annual Avalon Park Donate Life Pinwheel Garden, honoring the 230 Central Florida donor heroes that gave the ultimate Gift of Life in 2021. I have made contacts, learned invaluable lessons, and created lasting friendships with other Entrepreneur Fund Award win ners, business owners, and Members of the 5th floor.

PLAY

Like many of you, we have spent long hours on the fields at Tanja King Park and at the stadium, theater, and gym at Timber Creek. Our kids have done karate at Champion ship Martial Arts and played countless seasons of school and YMCA sports. Our daughter cheered over a decade for the Pop Warner Avalon Wolves and Timber Creek High School cheer team (GO WOLVES!!!) They won sev eral Regional and State titles and even a National Cham pionship. Our son is completing his 8th year of scouting, advancing from Tiger Scout in first grade to crossing over to BSA Troop 173 where he’s earned the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second and First Class. He is currently work ing on his Star rank and looks forward to following in his troop’s rich tradition of achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. We play at the many community festivals and events and eat, drink, and watch live music and sports at restaurants like Eastside Bistro, The Marketplace, and Bowigens Beer Company.

It is with the deepest of gratitude that our family would like to thank Beat Kahli and the entire hard-working team at the Avalon Park Group, for their dedication, invest ment, and commitment to our community in both good and bad economic times. We would also like to wish the people of Avalon Park and its surrounding area’s a Very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Let’s all give thanks and celebrate our blessings this season by donat ing and volunteering to help others.

PLAY (Cont.)

Over 17 Years of Ongoing Commitment

Rotary Arrives in East Orlando

In 2003 a vision began with several key stakeholders, and amazing support from other local Rotarians to form what is now called the Rotary Club of Avalon Park (RCoAP). “We proposed the idea to have our own Rotary club around the year of 2004,” stated Dom Caprani, founding member and past president. “There were about four of us who collectively rolled up our sleeves and created a new club.” And so it began….

In February of 2006, the Rotary Club of Avalon Park was officially founded and consisted of six members. “I look back in awe of what we did,” said Tom Beanland, founding member and past president. “We pressed hard, hosted community events and grew by wordof-mouth. Here we are 17 years later talking about the history and standing at around 40 members – truly impressive.”

Community Involvement

The RCoAP’s earmark in our community is hands-down their commitment to service. To date, the club has planned and execut ed more than 500 service projects including Free Little Libraries, painting schools, enhancing neighborhoods, replacing storm drain plaques, backpack drives for children, cleaning ponds, aiding sup plies during inclement weather situations, maintaining the Veter an’s Memorial Garden and much more. “We have our ears to the ground and our hearts in-tune with the needs of others,” stated cur rent president, Jean Zambrano. “There is a lot of strategic planning going on behind the scenes that no one else can see. It is truly in spiring to conceptualize a need and watch it come to life.”

For the past two years, each week, the RCoAP has delivered do nated Publix baked goods to the Samaritan Resource Center and to Word on The Street (WOTS) “Imagine feeding 80 people each week for 52 weeks,” said past president, Greg Meunier “Which is an overwhelming number 8,320 people being served (in the two year time period).”

Community Awareness

In addition to service, Rotary supports education and information. At its weekly meetings, the club presents speakers and programs on important issues of the day. Speakers have included former Or ange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, TCHS Principal Kelly Paduano, Tim McKinney (United Global Outreach), Pastor Skip Fegnfish (WOTS), and well-respected business and civic lead ers.

“Throughout the pandemic, we had to make a lot of changes to keep our club going,” said Bill Umansky, president (2019-20). “We prospered because of the level of commitment in the club and also our desire to serve others.” One especially memorable moment took place in the spring of 2020 when the club decided to cook for and serve essential workers at hospitals, fire houses, police stations and other areas where professions were unable to shelter in place. Another unique concept Umansky rolled out was video blogging their milestones. “We shot one video, shared it and just like that, the concept took off and we were recognized by other Rotary clubs.” The videos provided storytelling and much needed entertainment while people sheltered at home. The “vlogging” ignited more inter est in the club, drove members and helped elevate general aware ness for the Rotary brand.

RCoAp was instrumental in founding the Interact Club at Timber Creek High School and the Rotaract Club at the University of Cen tral Florida. Also worth mentioning is the support the club has pro vided to many great organizations over the years including United Cerebral Palsy (UCF chapter), The Mustard Seed, YMCA of Avalon Park, Alzheimer’s Association, Yellow Brick Road, Ronald McDon ald House, Miracle League of Central Florida, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, Relay For Life, Toys For Tots, and countless others along the way.

Signature Events

RCoAP is also known for its signature events. These events help raise money for local charities and provide scholarships to students. A few events you may recognize: Craft Beer Festivals, Holiday and Spring Wine Walks, Poker Tournaments, Community Campouts, and Pancake Breakfasts for Seniors and Veterans. “Our signature events not only generate awareness, but they help boost funding for programs in need,” said Jim McQueeney, past president. “We are excited to bring all of these in-person events to Avalon Park and encourage community participation.” Past events include a Classic Car Show, the Little Miss Avalon Pageant and Award Show, and Dunk Tanks at various community events.

International Involvement

RCoAP also supports international projects. In 2021, the club raised funds in support of a water well project for a school in Haiti. The funds raised helped purchase new solar panels for street lights, wa ter distribution and to empower the tutoring and mentoring pro gram. “The electrical upgrade also helped ensure that the children are not reading in the dark,” stated Zambrano, “Which aligned with the literacy pillar for Rotary International.” Past projects provided support to Bolivia (cleft palate surgeries), Colombia (mosquito net ting to help prevent transmissible diseases), and India (water wells) plus several educational projects focusing on literacy.

A Welcoming Atmosphere

The culture of RCoAP is very unpretentious and welcoming to ev eryone. “At Rotary, we understand that cultivating a diverse, equi table, and inclusive culture is essential to realizing our vision where people unite and take action to create lasting change,” said Zam brano. “We value diversity and celebrate the contributions of peo ple of all backgrounds, and we strive to create an inclusive culture where each person knows they are valued and belong.

But, is it fun? Several years ago the club added this line to the end of the Rotary “Four Way Test”. Umansky added, “I encourage ev eryone to enjoy the moment, take everything in, laugh, I am pleased that we say this and that our club adheres to it.”

For a club who began nearly two decades ago, their efforts have been boundless and impressive. The strong Rotary brand, backed by well-respected leaders and executed by a committed member base has set the bar for success for years to come.

Interested in getting involved with Rotary? They meet every Wednesday at 7:30 am at the Avalon Park Community Center (POA Building), 13401 Tanja King Blvd. To keep up to date with RCoAP activities, follow us on Facebook.

COMMUNITY CORNER

Avalon Park Pickleball

Pickleball is growing fast. Basketball star LeBron James is also a pickleball player and just bought a pickleball team. Pro golfer Jordan Spieth and former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo plan to play in an exhibition pickleball tournament this month. There have been recent articles about the explosive growth of pickleball in the Washington Post and NY Times. It is very fun to play, very social, and a little addictive too. We want to grow the game in Avalon Park.

“One of the oldest residents in Avalon Park, Beverly Middleton, loves the Avalon Park lifestyle and celebrated her 98th birthday October 1st with some new wheels!

Beverly lives in Village 3 with her daughter Debbie and Chuck Schandel. She loves to gamble and to watch Avalon Park pickleball tournaments. At our last tournament we had fun playing blackjack. Beverly plans to make it to 100 years old and I am sure she will.

Debbie and Chuck celebrated Debbie’s October birthday at Skydive Key West by doing a tandem jump from 10,000 feet with a 40 second freefall over the turquoise waters of Key West!”

“In a big night for Avalon Park Middle School Pickleball, Avalon Park Middle School student Elliana Harvey and retired Avalon Park Middle School Coach Linda Kroog won the 20th Avalon Park Pickleball Tournament 6-1! Their only loss was to the duo of Elliana’s grandmother Sheila Harvey and Linda’s husband Ken Kroog, who are celebrating their 75th birthdays this month. Sheila made a ‘75’ decoration out of wine corks for the occasion. Sheila and Ken, our oldest players, posed with our youngest players, Elliana and 9-year-old Zev Salamon, before the games. A large crowd of spectators enjoyed a free festive evening of great pickleball, pizza, and a 20th Tournament cake from Publix topped with a pickleball.

Details, and then Grounds pass, and then the Hertz tournament again. Sunday is the best day to go to watch all the pro finals and when Debbie and Ed play. You’ll also be able to watch the tournament on the PPA Tour YouTube and Facebook pages, and the Tennis Channel all 4 days. You will see many people from Avalon Park Pickleball in the stands.

Here in Avalon Park, you can bring a chair and a beverage and come to the courts at 4033 Cleary Way in South Village and watch our free tournaments the 1st Friday of every month at 7pm. Support local pickleball.”

Pickleball is exploding in popularity. A recent video on the CNBC YouTube site described how pickleball is “Taking Over America”. A Celebrity Pickleball match called ‘Pickled’ with Will Ferrel, Emma Watson, Sugar Ray Leonard and others aired on CBS Thursday, November 17. Billionaire Mark Cuban just bought a Vibe pro pickleball team.

Come watch Avalon Park residents Debbie Schandel and Ed Lynt compete in the Hertz Orlando Pickleball Championship with over 1,000 other amateurs and pros at USTA Lake Nona Dec.1-4. Grounds pass tickets are $25 and available at pickleballtournaments.com Search ‘Orlando’ in the top right corner where it says Search Future Tours, find the Hertz tournament, click on View

COMMMUNITY (Cont.)
COMMMUNITY (Cont.) 1998 2002 2000 2004 1999 2003 2001 2005 2006 2021 2008 2022
Years Town Center I Under Construction - 2002 Avalon Jubilee - 2006 Calm After the Storm - 2011 Elementary School Abroad Trips Avalon Park Cafe - 2005 Dog Park Renovations - 2009 20th Anniversary of Avalon Park - 2018 4th of July Bike Parade - 2005 Encore Ground Breaking2013 Arabian Nights - 2007 Avalon Aglow Parade - 2008 20th Anniversary I Heart Avalon - 2018
Avalon Through the
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