Avant Construction Group Teams Up with Southern Shores Fence and Rail to Support North Riverside Community Garden

JACKSONVILLE, FLA., October 6, 2023 – Like many of Jacksonville’s urban core neighborhoods, North Riverside near McCoys Creek is a food desert. That is why Daily Manna Community Garden located at 426 Smith Street is so important, and why Groundwork Jacksonville, Avant Construction Group and Southern Shores Fence and Rail are donating their time, materials and resources to improve it.

Each quarter, Avant Construction Group selects a Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization for its Community Give-Back program. Support may be a donation of time, funds, materials, or a combination thereof. Avant chose Groundwork Jacksonville as their quarter four recipient.

“When Gloria McNair, from Groundwork Jacksonville suggested helping the North Riverside Community through the community garden, we thought it was a great cause,” said Ellen Cottrill, communication and HR Manager for Avant Construction Group. ”We are proud to be part of a project that not only brings the community together but also helps to educate residents about gardening and provides much needed fresh produce to a food desert.”

The Community Garden is a program of Daily Manna Serving Center, a nonprofit that distributes food and mobilizes resources to fight poverty and end hunger. The garden provides an opportunity for residents to get their hands dirty and learn about urban farming, while also being a source for fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Through its work with the North Riverside CDC, Groundwork supports the garden by securing grant funding to help purchase materials and supplies as well as providing a stipend for the garden manager Jerby Hollomon. In addition, Groundwork’s CREST Stewards, (Community Restoration Environmental Stewardship Training) volunteer in the garden each month.

“We discussed several options for giving, but Daily Manna’s number one priority was a 200-linear-foot fence to wrap around the property,” said Cottrill. “We reached out to some of our vendors to see if they wanted to get involved and Matt Graziano was eager to help.”

“We are honored to partner with Avant Construction and get involved in this important project. As a new, local business, Southern Shores Fence & Rail appreciates the opportunity to help bring people together and make a difference in our community.”

Bishop Gerald Dinkins, the founder and CEO of Daily Manna Serving Center says that support like this means a great deal to the neighborhood, especially its seniors and children. “We are so thankful to Avant, Southern Shores and Groundwork for their support.” Said Bishop Dinkins. “This is more than a fence. It is one more step in making the community garden a place where the entire neighborhood can gather, work, learn and fellowship.” He added that the daycare centers down the street bring their kids to the garden. “We hope they will spend even more time at the garden now that the children can run around more freely without the worry of car traffic.”

What’s next for the community garden? Dinkins says they plan to add a few higher beds so that seniors can more easily garden, and a gazebo for neighbors to sit, relax and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their collective labor.


As of February 15, 2023, Opus Group will be known as Avant Construction Group (simply branded as Avant). Opus Group, originally founded in 1997, is a premier General Contracting company whose current projects include much of the exciting adaptive reuse development happening in Downtown Jacksonville.

“Avant is the perfect name to represent our company,” said Alan Cottrill, CEO and Founder. “We pride ourselves in projects that have unique character and design, and we’re excited to be involved in so much of the historic renovation and new developments that are happening downtown and moving our city forward as we continue to become a world-class city!”

The word Avant connotates being before, ahead, or cutting edge, while it is also defined as an action verb, as in “let’s go!”

The company is appreciated by clients for its ability to bring an added level of creativity and design experience to the building process. They will continue to use their tagline, “Collaborative Construction,” valuing the importance of the synergy between developer, client and builder.

According to Andy Alan, CEO of Corner Lot, “Their creative input into the design of our development portfolio has proven invaluable and their attention to detail during the construction process is unrivaled. We’ve trusted some of our most important developments to their craftsmanship, and are looking forward to the next successful project.”

Recent notable projects include the adaptive reuse of the First Baptist Church Auditorium to become the home of the NoCo Center and the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit, the award-winning warehouse renovation for Rethreaded’s Delores Barr Weaver’s Campus of Hope, and the historic renovation for the Industry West Headquarters at the corner of Prudential and Kings Avenue in San Marco. They are also involved in several Downtown development projects, including the historic and adaptive reuse of the Jones Brother’s building, and serving as Owner’s Rep for JWB at the Federal Reserve Building at 218 Hogan Street.
Upcoming projects include 1937 Spirits and Eatery, Hardwick’s Bar, The District Church, renovation of the Greenleaf Building on Laura Street for JWBs corporate offices, The Historical Jones Brothers adaptive reuse project, as well as several more exciting and transformational projects in the works.

Avant’s services include ground-up construction and renovation, as well as owner’s rep and construction consulting services.

Avant’s offices are in San Marco at 1510 Montana Avenue.

For more information contact: Ellen Cottrill
Head of Communications 904-699-7879