October 19,2016 - Babcock Ranch designed for multi-layered sustainability
Naples Daily News
Naples Daily News – Staff Reporters
October 18, 2016
BABCOCK RANCH — When Kitson & Partners’ Chairman and CEO Syd Kitson and a select group of town makers started planning the new town of Babcock Ranch more than 10 years ago, they established a set of core values that continue to provide the foundation for how the town is designed and being built. Foremost was a commitment to preservation, to the environment, and to creating a place that would allow people of all ages to live, learn, work and play in ways that would engender a lasting sense of community. This multi-layered approach to sustainability that embraces both ecological considerations and the town’s social structures has established Babcock Ranch as a first of its kind model for how new towns will be designed and developed in the future. Kitson’s commitment to preservation has been evident from the beginning. In July 2005, Kitson & Partners entered into a contract to purchase the Babcock Florida Co., including the 91,000-acre ranch. A year later, after working with officials from the state, Charlotte County and Lee County, and engaging environmental groups, ranging from the Sierra Club to Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, The Everglades Foundation, the Everglades Trust, and the Florida Wildlife Federation, Kitson & Partners completed its purchase. “We closed on the 91,000 acres and simultaneously sold 73,000 acres to the state of Florida in the largest land preservation purchase in the history of the state,” said Syd Kitson. “That meant those 73,000 acres were going to be preserved. We had 18,000 acres remaining to build our new town. We’re preserving half of those 18,000 acres. That means 90 percent of the 91,000 acre ranch is preserved forever. That’s a legacy for us and for the people who made it come together.” Kitson’s planners developed a site plan that ensures more than 90 percent of the town will be built on previously impacted pasture, farm and rock-mined land. The planning and design efforts reduced the town’s wetland impacts to approximately 400 acres. “We’re fitting the pieces of the town into nature,” said Gary Nelson, Kitson & Partners’ Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. “In many developments, you see them do preserves and they are strictly wetland preserves. The developer is simply not disturbing what they’re not permitted to disturb. If you peel away the master plan here at Babcock, what you see underneath is all of the disturbed areas — the farm fields and the mining places. And when you see all of the preserve places on the plan, you’re seeing the green ways and the flow ways that existed when we started planning Babcock Ranch.” To ensure Babcock Ranch will have the cleanest energy of any town in the country, Syd Kitson worked with Florida Power & Light (FPL) to develop a partnership that will provide solar generated power by day and natural gas generated power at night. Kitson & Partners gave FPL 400 acres on which to build an on-site photovoltaic solar array that will include 350,000 solar panels and a 75 mega-watt power generation and distribution system. “Smart grid” digital electric distribution technologies will optimize efficiency and lower utility costs for the town’s residences and businesses. The Babcock Ranch Solar Center is scheduled to go online in November. “The sustainability story here is unique,” said Kitson & Partners’ President and CIO ,Thomas Hoban. “Our solar energy comes from the site, our mining operation delivers the fill and road aggregate we need from the site. We’ve got a sod farm on the property that delivers the sod we need, we’re going to have farming on the site to deliver our produce, we’ve got a water system on site that’s tapping into the aqua system beneath Babcock to provide our water, and we’ll have our own wastewater treatment facility. We’re going to have a greywater irrigation system for the homes at Babcock Ranch. From a sustainability perspective, it doesn’t get more sustainable than that.” Phase I of the downtown district will include an outfitters store, a produce market and café, a lakefront restaurant, an Encore Career Center, and Founder’s Square, a lakefront green space. Autonomous vehicles will provide an alternative way to move about town. Online at babcockranch.com.