Long before Laureate Park, long before Medical City, the cows of of the Lake Nona area once outnumbered its people.
Just ask Lee Vista resident Stacy Kilgore. When she and her husband of 25 years, Chan, moved to the area 15 years ago to open Crosspointe Church, a nondenominational house of worship, she joked, “Who’s going to come to your church, the cows?”
But the pastor and seminary teacher’s if-you-build-it-they-will-come hunch turned out to be right. Today, Chan oversees seven different congregations in the area, including a Spanish-speaking church.
And Stacy says she hasn’t just seen her husband’s church grow over the last decade and a half, she’s seen the entire area—Lee Vista and neighboring Lake Nona—grow to its still-booming present.
“We moved here because of the community center. It’s a family-centered area—with a resort-style pool with a lighthouse slide!” she gushes. “The community reflects the beauty in the diversity of the city of Orlando,” which is just a 20-minute drive away and where, conveniently, their 25-year-old daughter presently lives.
When it comes to unwinding, Stacy says she and her husband and their two daughters, ages 15 and 18, like to either drive to the beach with Oliver, their super-hyper Havanese, or entertain themselves with the latest superhero movie in the dark, air-conditioned Epic Theatres on Hazeltine National Drive.
Besides living in a family-friendly neighborhood full of friendly families, Stacy says Lee Vista has become a wonderful place because the area has attracted so many new businesses as it continues to grow. The Lee Vista Promenade, which is anchored by the Epic, is still being built out, but it’s already attracted national clothes retailers and a pub called Rock & Brews, courtesy of legendary KISS bassist, Gene Simmons.
Stacy’s neighbor, Anique Peppers, a social worker, cookie enthusiast and the head baker behind Nique’s Sweet Treats, echoes this sentiment.
“The neighbors are friendly, the schools are great, and the [neighborhood] association truly cares about the residents,” she says. “The amenities are wonderful. The parks are well kept.”
Lee Vista, Stacy says, has become an area of convenience. “Everything is here now,” she says. That includes a Michaels arts and crafts store and a Ross Dress for Less. There’s a Publix right across the street from their home. And when they don’t feel like cooking, Stacy and Chan will take their daughters out to dinner at one of the area’s many restaurants. Their favorite is Ari Hibachi and Sushi, but Stacy laughingly says it’s actually the Cracker Barrel that’s her guilty pleasure.
And like Stacy, Anique likes to go to the movies at Epic and take occasional trips to Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Tokyo Steak House & Sushi Bar.
“I love where I live,” Stacy says. It has everything she wants, or else it’s nearby. In fact, as Lake Nona continues its construction boom, Lee Vista’s a destination for Nona-ites hungry for a dinner-and-a-movie night. It’s also close to the beach, close to their adult daughter’s new home in Orlando, and close to their hometown, Hypoluxo, where their parents live. And it’s a short drive to the airport, which makes getting in and out of town easy when Chan takes church trips to Brazil and Germany.
And Stacy says it almost didn’t happen, were it not for a fateful drive through the area on a family trip to Disney World.
“Chan felt the call to plant a church in Lake Nona,” she says, once again joking, “with the cows.”
This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Central Florida Monthly Magazine. The free publication is distributed in Lake Nona, Lee Vista, Harmony, Conway, St. Cloud, and Kissimmee via direct mail (30 thousand copies), email (20 thousand subscribers), social media (thousands of followers) and the Social, CFM’s signature networking event. Download the digital issue here.