May 10, 2016

Babcock Ranch designing for future

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Andrea Stetson, Special to The News-Press

April 25, 2016

When the Babcock Ranch community is built, it won’t just be designed for today, it will be designed for the future. It will also be designed green. That’s because the “green lady” is guiding the way for Southwest Florida’s biggest new development project.

Jennifer Languell, of Trifecta Construction, says she is known as the “green lady” because she spends her life advising everyone from huge companies to small builders about how to build environmentally conscious and how to build for the future.  Her biggest client right now is Kitson and Partners who are developing the Babcock Ranch community. She has been working on this project for 10 years and is excited to finally see groundbreaking start and a plan to have the first people move in summer of 2017.

Languell says her vision is a balance between preserving the historic features of Babcock Ranch with the way people will live in the future. So while she makes plans to use old wood from Babcock in the construction of the Lakehouse she also plans for a community with a plethora of car chargers for a future with electric cars.

“There are 15 new electric vehicles coming out this year. We are making sure when we are putting in the roadways that we have the infrastructure to put in those car chargers,” she said.

Languell is also designing a community for a future of autonomous vehicles.

“Maybe in 20 years autonomous vehicles might be the reality,” she said.  “We are trying to be forward thinking and be adaptable in what we are doing and be durable in what we are doing. We build it to last. We don’t want to rebuild it. “This is a new town so we have to be thinking what is next.”

That means making sure the vegetation and signage doesn’t interfere with the self-driving cars of the future. It also means designing a community for the future of environmentally conscious residents. Part of that includes a plan to entice people not to drive as far for services, yet not to make the building footprint so big to encompass all the services people need.

“We are working out arrangements where they have offices with rotating doctors,” Languell explained. “It’s where doctors that have offices in Fort Myers and Naples come to Babcock once a week. This day the general practitioner has the office and the next day the cardiologist is sharing the same office. It saves a dozen people from driving to the doctor’s office. It is showing people how to live healthier. Rotating doctors is a design for a new way of business.”

Another way of business is to get homeowners out of their dens and into a new way of doing work.

“It’s a place for people to have their encore careers,” Languell began. “It has desks and cubbies like a swanky library. People don’t want to sit in an office anymore they want to get out and sit in a Starbucks and get out and feel connected. This gives them a place.”

There will also be a place for dogs with a doggie daycare. There are plans for a Discovery Center, restaurants, wellness center, market cafe and schools.

As builders work on their plans, Languell works to educate builders on how to build green.

“I am their green lady,” she said.

Plans are in place for a 40 percent reduction in wastewater treatment and for solar lighting. She’s also working on an overall green design that includes gardens to provide produce for the restaurants and markets and chickens to provide fresh eggs.

“That is the kind of thinking that is going into every decision,” Languell said. “None of it is rocket science.”

Yet it is a careful balance and a recipe for blending old and new.  So while in one building there might be fresh eggs in a market downstairs, there will be video game areas upstairs. While there are organic farms outside, there is top technology with fiber optics inside.

“You are taking land that has been around a long time as a ranch and you want to honor that memory,” she said. “So great you have nature trails, but how do you bring that to the next generations? You create an app that identifies the trails and certain trees and whatever. It is a blend between trying to honor the land and the technology generation.”

Babcock sits on 18,000 acres in Charlotte County. At buildout there will be 19,500 front doors. Models will be open this summer and people can move in early next year, said John Hillman senior vice president of sales and marketing for Kitson and Partners.

“It’s honestly a brand new town,” Hillman said.

Hillman said one of the best things is that most of the amenities will be open to the public. Everything from the park and splash pads to the concerts and movie nights to the restaurants and markets.

Hillman is also excited about blending the old and the new and about the effort to make Babcock green. He is proud of the planned 443 acre solar facility, the onsite wastewater treatment and the natural gas.

He vividly describes how the homes will have eight-foot wide porches to encourage people to be connected like they were generations ago. In the next breath he describes the fiber optic Internet.

“We will have Internet at the speed of light,” he said. “It will totally change the way we all use services. It just changes the whole game.”

His slogan is “Welcome back to a New Hometown.”

“It is a new hometown, but we are bringing them back to things,” Hillman explained.

“There are a lot of really interesting things. The duality looking back and honoring things from the past with the future.  It’s a fun interplay. It is all about honoring past traditions and enjoying today’s 21st century capabilities.”