January 10, 2018

Babcock Ranch welcomes its very first residents (and soon, their first neighbors)

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

By Andrea Stetson, Special to The News-Press

Published 11:41 a.m. ET Jan. 10, 2018 | Updated 12:10 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2018

Richard and Robin Kinley

Richard and Robin Kinley are the first residents to move into Babcock Ranch. Being first comes with lots of perks. They had a lake named after them. They received Babcock Ranch bicycles and there were several ceremonies heralding their arrival.

Children Singing

Children from the Babcock Ranch school played string instruments as they moved in this week. A breakfast was held in their honor with school children singing a welcome song and presenting them with a banner.

Children from the school at Babcock Ranch sing to the first residents who just moved in. (Photo: Andrea Stetson/Special to The News-Press)

“It’s our 15 minutes of fame,” Richard Kinley joked. “When we signed the contract, we didn’t expect to be the first.”

Right now, when the construction workers go home and the town shops close at night, the Kinleys are alone in the 18,000-acre community that will one day fill up with 20,000 homes.

“It does not feel desolate,” Richard Kinley said. “It feels like home and we are waiting for some friends to show up in a few weeks.”

Their first neighbors will move in on  January 24. Donna and Jim Aveck missed the first spot by about two weeks.

“We are pioneers,” Jim Aveck said.

Although there won’t be a ceremony when they become the second residents, they also had a lake named after them – Lake James.

Richard and Robin Kinley Home

Richard and Robin Kinley were the first residents to move into their new home, shown. (Photo: Andrea Stetson/Special to The News-Press)

By February, moving trucks will be a common site as more and more residents move in.

“We will have 200 to 300 families here by the end of the year,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, who is developing the community. It is very significant.”

Many future residents already spend lots of time watching their homes being built and enjoying the activities, shops, and restaurant at Babcock Ranch.

“We are looking forward to the lifestyle,” Donna Aveck said. “We are looking forward to the lifelong learning, the exercise, being in the environment that was created here with the trails and with everything being built directly from the ground up. We are looking forward to events where you see children. We like that it is multigenerational. We are excited about becoming part of the history of Babcock Ranch.”

Syd Kitson

Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, the developer of Babcock Ranch, greets children from the Babcock school during a ceremony welcoming the first residents. (Photo: Andrea Stetson/Special to The News-Press)

Kitson is so proud of the new community that he bought a house there too. “I live in several places, but I will be spending half my time here,” Kitson said. “Without question, I am looking forward to being able to walk to work here, and my wife and I love to go hiking. We will take advantage of the hiking trails. We will open up a second trail system and have 50 miles of trails, which has got to be one of the largest of any community.”

Kitson is exceptionally proud of all the technology that is part of Babcock Ranch from driverless shuttles, to solar power, to fiber optics.

“One of the things that makes this all possible is the fiber optics to all homes,” Kitson said. “It is incredibly fast. It is one of the few places in the country that has that right now. It allows us to do other things that other place can’t.”

There will be a Babcock Ranch app that will allow residents to make reservations, pay bills and more.

“One thing I am really excited about is the telehealth medicine,” he said.

Telehealth medicine will allow residents to have access to doctors over the phone that can diagnose and help patients. The autonomous shuttle service will also be expanded to allow people to use the app to call the shuttle to take them into the town center.

Richard and Robin Kinley

Richard and Robin Kinley were the first residents to move into Babcock Ranch. The lake behind them was named Lake Kinley because they were the first to sign a contract to live there. (Photo: Andrea Stetson/Special to The News-Press)

The Kinleys and future residents are excited about the technology. “That high-speed internet is sweet,” Robin Kinley said. “We are heavily dependent on our computer.” “We never had internet that was so fast,” Richard Kinley added.

Connor Hunt, 8, is excited about the new technology. His mother, Bethany, said Connor is looking forward to using the app to call the shuttle to take him to school. “We are so excited,” Bethany Hunt said. “The driverless car can drive them to school. My son is so technologically savvy and he is so excited about it. It’s the coolest thing ever.” Bethany and Jerry Hunt are moving in with Connor, and Peyton, 5, in October. The family, that now lives in Fort Myers, is excited about having a community school so close.

“When it started being built, we came in and looked at a few houses and fell in love with it,” Bethany Hunt began. “School is a huge bonus because middle schools in our area aren’t so great. It’s great knowing we would have great schools all the way through 12th grade.”

Don and Sharon Bishop will call Babcock Ranch home in March. They have been living in their RV while they wait for their home to be finished. “We like the idea of a town center being here,” Sharon Bishop said. “I can ride my bike to the health center and the town. I like all the water, too.” They also like all of the technology. “I have always been a techie,” Don Bishop began. “We heard the restaurants might start delivering with drones.”

Yes, said Kitson. That might happen. With drones becoming so popular, he’s also planning drone flying lessons for residents.

“With the fiber optics, we think we can implement all of the new technology,” Kitson said.