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September 20,2016 - Babcock takes shape
Charlotte Sun

Homes underway at Babcock Ranch

By ANNE EASKER

Staff Writer

When the first residents move into Babcock Ranch early next year, they may be drawn from around the country — local Floridians as well as transplants from as far as Oregon, attracted to the eco-friendly, Old Florida lifestyle on which Babcock has staked its identity.

They will be young and old, families and retirees, bound together by a desire to live slower, sustainable lives, know their neighbors and be a part of a pioneering community.

Four builders gathered at Babcock on Monday to mark construction getting underway for the first neighborhood, Lake Timber, and to unveil their new floor plans and environmental innovations for a city of the future that developers have said could some day have up to 50,000 residents.

All houses must have a minimum bronze rating under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Fox Premier Builders is boasting houses nearing a platinum standard, using many locally sourced materials to create homes with low energy costs that address environmental concerns such as hurricanes, tropical moisture, termites, etc.

Company representatives said theyalready have a huge amount of interest from people across the board and are in negotiation with their first potential buyer, who has been following Babcock since 2006.

Stock Development said potential buyers range from people in their 20s all the way up to their 70s. Families are excited about the recently approved charter school. The environmentally friendly crowd is excited about the solar power. Seasonal residents plan to buy second homes at Babcock.

Homes by Towne is the first to begin construction at Babcock and saidtheir four-floor plans, named after breeds of Heirloom tomatoes, are designed to appeal to different sorts of people — smaller homes for empty nesters, larger ones for families, and themes for each, including coastal, farmhouse, craftsman and West Indies. Your tomato choices are Brandywine, Jade, Sungold and Sterling, according to the Towne website.

As a founding builder at Lakewood Ranch as well, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kitt Kearney said there is lots of pent-up demand for Babcock, and she’s sure the development will pan out.

“We know what it’s like to found a community and see it stand the test of time,” Kearney said.

The newest builder to come to Babcock Ranch is Florida Lifestyle Homes. Denise Ogden, of Sales and Marketing, said the company’s floor plans are each named after a loved one of someone in the company.

“The names come from the love we have in our lives,” Ogden said. “That’s what Babcock is all about — memories.”

Prices for the first homes range from the $300,000s to $800,000s.

Babcock President Rick Severance said there are also townhomes and villas planned for Phase I, which he expects to go up in the next two to three years. Other multifamily options are planned in future phases, as the market demands.

Affordable housing will be added when there is a need for it. Severance said it’s too premature to say when that might be but he stressed wanting to go above and beyond official requirements.

“We don’t want it to be less than,” Severance said. “We want it to be more attractive and more compelling than what the government standard has defined for affordable housing.”

The town is governed as an Independent Special District, acting as its own municipality. The board already exists, and as time goes on, Severance believes it will transition to elected positions once there are enough residents.

Despite the limited, tourist-driven economy of Southwest Florida,Severance doesn’t expect any trouble in filling the town.

“I think Florida in general is a place people want to move to, especially if they’re going to wind down or retire,” he said. “People are choosing to reside here in the latter part of their lives, but we’re seeing a lot of folks who find Babcock Ranch extremely interesting. They may already live in Florida and just want to live differently than they are living now.”

Severance said young professionals with ties to Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College could live at Babcock while working in Punta Gorda, Fort Myers or Naples, and the town will create a number of jobs as well, through its charter school and continuing development.

The town is about 5 miles to the nearest Publix and CVS, and officials are recruiting a number of other retail and commercial developments to go up in the next three to five years. The downtown will be opening in spring of next year, so the first residents will have their basic amenities taken care of.