January 06,2017 - Kitson creating a new version of “home place” at Babcock Ranch
January 5, 2017
SPECIAL TO FLORIDA WEEKLY
As construction of Phase I of the downtown district and furnished models in the Lake Timber neighborhood at Babcock Ranch continue to progress as planned, master developer Kitson & Partners’ unique brand of place-making is becoming evident.
A new town being built by Kitson in Charlotte County, Babcock Ranch will be the first solar-powered town in the world, and will ultimately include 19,500 homes, nearly 50,000 residents, and 6 million square feet of commercial space. Kitson’s development strategy is focused on creating a sense of place that will be embraced by residents and visitors alike. As a result, Babcock Ranch will provide a new version of “home place,” a term that speaks to the fabric of a community, the level of connectedness that residents enjoy with one another, a feeling of belonging and being safe, and the opportunities a place offers for creating memories with family members and friends.
Kitson’s vision for Babcock Ranch has been designed to appeal to the passion for a better, more fulfilling, more deeply connected life that resides in people of all ages. Kitson’s new and better kind of town invites residents to take pleasure in creating and recalling moments in time that conjure a sense of joy in new and exciting ways that have, until now, been imagined but unrealized — places that offer a real opportunity to experience and know that joy firsthand have been incorporated into every facet of Babcock’s design.
Children will know the freedom and the joy of finding special “hidden” places along Babcock’s 50-mile network of trails, climbing a particularly tall tree for the first time, racing their bikes to beat their friends to a favored fishing hole, stopping at the ice cream shop on their way home from school, playing ball in the park, enjoying a backyard campout, or spending an afternoon at the Lake House neighborhood pool and recreation center.
Parents will know they are part of a neighborhood and a town where other adults know their children by name and watch out for them. They will enjoy impromptu front porch conversations and potluck barbecues with neighbors, spending an hour or so working in the neighborhood garden, enjoying a hike, bike ride, kayaking on Lake Babcock or attending a concert on the lakefront green at Founder’s Square followed by dinner at the adjacent Table & Tap restaurant. Empty nesters and retirees will appreciate recalling a simpler time and place where neighbors knowing and caring for their neighbors was a valued tradition. Time spent with aspiring and rejuvenated entrepreneurs in the Hatchery’s Encore Career Center and at the Wellness Center will revitalize the mind and body while providing opportunities to socialize and connect with others.
In sum, Kitson and its team of town planners have created places to which people will naturally gravitate and will ultimately become favored, memorable destinations for people of all ages and backgrounds to interact, to come to know one another, and to experience life at Babcock Ranch together.
A town out of time
Central to the design are the notions that effective place making is about developing streetscapes that invite a walkable, bikeable lifestyle; incorporating neighborhood parks that offer children a place to play and neighbors to gather; providing every neighborhood with a trail head that serves as a gateway to the town’s nature trails; establishing neighborhood gardens for neighbors to share; and creating the Founder’s Square lakefront green space at the heart of the downtown district that will serve as a venue for community celebrations, concerts, civic events, or simply relaxing with friends.
The town’s architectural styles contribute to the sense of place Kitson is creating at Babcock. The town’s planners eschewed the residential styles prevalent for the past several decades that emphasize backyard living that by design tends to isolate neighbors from one another. Instead, the Babcock style is derived from styles found in pre-World War II neighborhoods in Fort Myers, Naples and throughout Southwest Florida. Deep, open porches characteristic of these regional styles typically run the length of the front facade and sometimes wrap around one or both sides of the house, giving the homes their characteristic look. These regional design principles are applied to the town’s residential architectural styles — Craftsman, Farmhouse, Coastal Gulf Vernacular, Spanish and Colonial/West Indies. Grouped around Babcock Ranch’s parks and streetscapes, the homes and their porches will be positioned tighter to the street and to encourage the social interaction, connectivity, and sense of belonging that are the essence of the notion of home place.
Kitson has designed Babcock Ranch to be a place that 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. Babcock’s 18,000-acre site plan presents the innovative merging of urban and rural constructs. Half of the 18,000-acre site will be preserved in the form of lakes, parks, green spaces, community gardens, forests and nature trails, all of which will be inextricably intertwined with the town’s residential neighborhoods and downtown venues.
The Babcock Neighborhood School, a free public charter school open to all students in kindergarten through grade eight who qualify to attend a public school in Charlotte County, is now accepting applications for the 2017-18 school year. This includes out-of-district students who are allowed to request admission under Florida’s new open enrollment law. BNS offers a “place-based” environmentally focused “greenSTEAM” educational program that integrates science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics within a thoughtfully provided holistic learning environment. Taken in combination with Babcock’s commitment to clean energy sourced in solar power by day and natural gas by night, the resulting town and country lifestyle afforded by Kitson’s development approach has been heralded as a model for how towns of the future will be developed. As such, the town will provide a powerful context in which the STEAM focus at BNS can flourish.
Time is of the essence
There is another facet to Babcock’s design that provides the greatest gift of all: time. Even as they live immersed in nature, the town’s neighborhoods will be in walkable or bikeable proximity to the Downtown District’s stores, shops, markets, restaurants, Wellness Center and Encore Career Center. Children attending BNS can walk or ride their bikes to and from school. Time normally lost sitting in traffic during shopping trips or waiting in the afternoon school pick-up line will be transformed into time available for individual pursuits or connecting with family members and friends.
Every home and business at Babcock Ranch will be wired with ultra-high speed internet service capable of sending an email, downloading a song or movie, conducting a content search or completing an on-line purchase literally within seconds.
Whether it be the neighborhood recreation center, a park or lakefront green space, the neighborhood garden, a trail head or kayak launch, the places Kitson has created for people to enjoy at Babcock Ranch are literally within minutes. The availability of additional time will contribute to Babcock’s low stress, high touch way of living that puts a premium on personal fulfillment, connecting with others on a personal level and creating the memories that will forever be attached to one’s home place. ¦
>> To learn more about living at Kitson & Partners’ Babcock Ranch, or to apply for admission in kindergarten through grade eight for the 2017-18 school year at the Babcock Neighborhood School, visit www.babcockranch.com.