Kevin Tyjeski: Planner Helped Shape Baldwin Park’s Look

Kevin Tyjeski, who helped shape Rollins' master of planning and civic urbanism and worked as adjunct professor for 10 years, passed away on Wednesday.

(Photo by Jill Gable) (Photo by Jill Gable)

It must have been a curious sight watching Kevin Tyjeski take vacation photos.

Whether visiting friends in Wisconsin, a resort in the Florida Panhandle, or in-laws in South America, you'd find him shooting photos of sidewalks. Or landscaping. Or fences. Even enclosures for dumpsters.

Tyjeski, Orlando's deputy director of economic development, was always on the lookout for ideas to make the city more tidy and beautiful.

"The city was his passion," said his wife, Pat Tyjeski.

Family members returned home Wednesday night to find that Tyjeski, 53, had died while sitting in his favorite chair. His cause of death had not been determined Friday.

Tyjeski worked for Orlando for 18 years, mostly as a city planner. During that time, he played a role in virtually every development that came to Orlando, said the city's economic-development director, Brooke Bonnett. He helped decide how sections of land would be used and where homes and businesses should be located.

In 2011, he took over as deputy director of the Economic Development Department.

"You can actually see the results of his work in the city's skyline and in the city's neighborhoods and in every project that has ever developed over the past 18 years," Bonnett said. "That's just an amazing legacy for somebody."

He was best known for his work in Baldwin Park, helping transform an area where the old Naval Training Center once stood into an upscale community of about 7,600 people.

Residents and visitors have Tyjeski to thank for the layout and feel of the place, from the width of sidewalks to the look of the buildings to the placement of lights and trees.

"All those tiny details that people don't necessarily think about," said close friend Paul Lewis, the city's planning manager.

Tyjeski also helped shape the planning degrees at Rollins College, the University of Central Florida and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He served on advisory committees for planning programs at those schools. For 10 years, he was an adjunct professor at Rollins.

The city has created a scholarship in his name for local students pursuing careers in city planning.

While Tyjeski's work with the city consumed much of his life, his wife said she and their two sons—Nico, 17, and Andres, 15—remained his priority. He refused to miss Nico's cross-country running meets or either boy's piano recitals.

He took great joy in creating elaborate gourmet meals for family and friends. People often asked for his recipes, but he could not share them because he tended to improvise with his ingredients from dish to dish.

"He would not repeat the same recipe twice," said Pat Tyjeski, who met her husband when they were both working as planners for Ormond Beach. "He was not about making it easy. He was about making it fancy and tasty and beautiful."

Besides his wife and sons, Tyjeski is survived by his parents, Bernard and Irma Tyjeski of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin; three brothers, Gene Tyjeski, Darnell Tyjeski and Brad Tyjeski, also of Wisconsin Rapids; and sister Allison Schmidt of Chaska, Minnesota.

DeGusipe Funeral Home, Maitland, is handling arrangements.

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