April 07,2017 - All About The Great Outdoors
Fort Myers News Press
April 7, 2017
Just a few weeks after officially opening to the public, Founder’s Square at Babcock Ranch is springing to life. From morning exercise classes to brisk business at the lakefront “Table & Tap”, the daily buzz of activity in this new town being built by Kitson & Partners in Charlotte County gives the world’s first solar powered town a familiar hometown vibe.
The surprising melding of modern technology and timeless hometown charm nestled in expansive natural spaces is a defining characteristic of this innovative new town that will ultimately include 19,500 homes, nearly 50,000 residents and 6 million square feet of commercial space.
Babcock residents reap all the benefits and efficiencies of the most advanced, modern technologies. High-speed fiber-optic keeps them as connected with the outside world as they want to be. But when it’s time to unplug, nature is just outside the door. Babcock Ranch’s expansive amenities celebrate and embrace getting out and engaging the land, nature, wildlife, waterways and great public places within it. This includes both active public community spaces, and places for quiet solitude. Residents, businesses and visitors are outfitted with all they need to actively engage the outdoors and nature.
“I believe people want ways to connect with nature, to leave everything else behind and recharge,” said Syd Kitson, Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners. “Babcock Ranch is all about the great outdoors. Living in a town with half of its total area dedicated to green space, residents can walk out their door and truly immerse themselves in nature without leaving their neighborhood.”
Kitson traces his passion for nature to his childhood.
“When I was very young, my parents didn’t allow us to stay inside,” Kitson said. “We went camping, deep into the woods for weeks at a time and I developed a deep love of the land. I appreciate what it means. I think people intuitively understand that you feel better when you are in the woods or on top of a mountain. I really believe you will live longer and have a better life.”
Kitson has focused on making Babcock Ranch the kind of town people both want to live in – and can afford to live in. The design embraces residential neighborhoods, civic, retail and educational structures, and opportunities to enjoy both the grandeur and subtleties of nature on a daily basis as a cohesive, unified experience rather than as separate, disparate parts.
With sustainability woven right into the infrastructure, Babcock Ranch leverages economies of scale to deliver green living at competitive prices.
Responsible development started with the land. The Babcock Ranch site plan puts 90% of the new town on previously impacted pasture, farm and rock-mined land. if you peel away the master plan at Babcock – what you see is all the areas cleared for pastures and farmlands underneath the planned development, nestled among the areas that will remain forested.
Use of resources available right on the property is another part of the sustainability story. On-site mining operations provide all of the fill and road aggregate. On-site farming will deliver produce – and provide space for community farming plots where residents can grow their own. And sod comes from the community sod farm. To conserve water, Babcock Ranch’s landscaping guidelines limit turf coverage to 30% of residential lots and require homeowners to use native, low impact trees and shrubs for 75% of their landscaping. All irrigation throughout the community will use reclaimed or “grey water” from the onsite water and wastewater utility.
Expansive green spaces throughout the community beckon neighbors to connect with nature and with each other. In addition to neighborhood trail-heads that will serve as gateways to the network of nature trails, every neighborhood at Babcock Ranch incorporates parks with space for children to play, neighbors to gather, and for gardeners to test their skills. Public lakefronts make the sparkling freshwater lakes accessible for kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing.
The opportunities for outdoor adventure at Babcock Ranch extend far beyond the town boundaries. The 50 miles of trails within the town’s footprint will eventually connect into the neighboring Babcock Ranch Preserve. Created in 2006 as part of a complex transaction facilitated by Kitson, the 73,000 acre preserve is home to a number of listed species including gopher tortoises, red-cockaded woodpeckers and large mammals such as Florida panthers and black bears. Comprised of cypress domes, mesic flatwoods and wet prairies that straddle Telegraph Swamp, the state’s purchase of the historic ranch secured the final link of an environmental corridor that now links Lake Okeechobee to the Charlotte Harbor Estuary.
The economic engine that made the preservation possible – an environmentally friendly new town on the portion of the historic ranch that Kitson retained – took more than a decade to incubate. Now, as the new town prepares to welcome its first residents, Babcock Ranch is raising the bar for responsible, forward-thinking and sustainable development and creating a new model for the future.
“I believe the approach we are taking to protect the land while sustaining growth can serve as a model for the rest of the state and the nation in the years to come,” Kitson said. “If demand is there – others will follow our lead and Babcock Ranch will prove to be a real game-changer.”
To learn more about living at the eco-centric, solar powered town being created by Kitson & Partners at Babcock Ranch, visit www.babcockranch.com.