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May 23,2019 - A Brand New Florida Town Built for the Future

5/22/2019 Mark Kelly anchor  WPBF news

Click on following link to view interview with Syd Kitson:

https://www.wpbf.com/article/a-brand-new-florida-town-built-for-the-future/27555217

Anchor Mark Kelly takes us to the brand new community here in Florida that promises to be the town of the future, and we meet the South Floridians who are already moving there.

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. —

There’s often tension between developers and environmentalists in our state. But one local developer says it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Morning Anchor Mark Kelly takes us to the brand new community here in Florida that promises to be the town of the future, and we meet the South Floridians who are already moving there.

“We want it to be the most environmentally responsible, sustainable new town that’s ever been built in the entire country,” said Syd Kitson, chair & C.E.O., Kitson & Partners.

The Babcock Ranch mega-project is the brainchild of Palm Beach Gardens Developer Syd Kitson, chair & C.E.O., Kitson & Partners.

“We have 51 miles of trails,” said Kitson.

At Babcock Ranch, just outside Fort Myers, Kitson didn’t simply build another gated Florida community, he designed a 21st century town.

“And then we have our general store, Slater’s, right here,” said Kitson, as he toured us around Founder’s Square.

It has several neighborhoods, a town square, an ice-cream shop and a lake. But it’s also a “green” town with native landscaping, natural fertilizers, and restaurants serving farm to table. And tech is everywhere, with free WiFi every home and business gets an entire gig of fiber, and they even have self-driving shuttles.

“Ready for a ride?,” said Eli Ghosn, one of the team members tasked with programming the self-driving shuttle and teach folks how it works.

Babcock will soon have self-driving shuttles zipping all over town. Eli Ghosn shows us how to use it: Just pull up the app, and tell it where you want to go.

“You’re teaching people something that in 10, 15 years could be the norm,” said Ghosn.

“Yeah, to us it already is,” said Ghosn. “Why waste gas and energy when you have something that uses zero emissions.”

So what powers this community of the future? 343,000 solar panels lined up in a massive solar field.

“I’m first and foremost an environmentalist, and I happen to be a developer,” said Kitson. “One of the things I realized early in my career is that what we do has an impact on our environment… And for us that was solar energy. We’re the first solar-powered town in the United States.”

Working with Florida Power & Light, they’re also building the first solar to battery storage facility of its kind. It’ll take a lot of sunshine to power the 20,000 homes being built at Babcock – brand new homes like the ones the Vokaty family just bought. They’re leaving South Florida for a chance to be a part of an environmental movement, send their girls to an A-rated charter school and raise them in a place that has big city amenities with small-town charm.

“Everyone looks each other in the eyes and says good morning or good afternoon. It’s just very pleasant,” said Kelli Vokaty. “The parks, the trails and the schools they’re going to have on site, the shopping, the wellness center – everything about it pretty much.”

All this isn’t just for the rich. Babcock has rentals and condos starting at $180,000 all the way up to million dollar homes. The Barnes family is leaving pricey Palm Beach County for more affordable pastures at Babcock.

“We found this area, particularly this community, to be more affordable and a nicer lifestyle than what we could have found where we were in South Florida,” said Michael Barnes.

Babcock is a new chapter for these families, but for developer Syd Kitson it’s an old dream, one he shared with his late father, it’s just finally coming true.

“One of his comments to me was, ‘it seems to me you’ve been working your whole life for this, and you need to make it happen.’ I think he passed away about a week later,” said Kitson.

“What do you think your father would say if he was standing here now in Founder’s Square?” Kelly asked Kitson.
“I think he would be very proud,” Kitson said.

If you’re wondering where Babcock Ranch got its name. It comes from the original family who owned the land since 1914.

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