July 12, 2016

Babcock’s solar city breaks ground with first downtown building

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

PATRICIA BORNS, 9:14 a.m. EDT June 29, 2016

Tuesday marked a quiet, official groundbreaking at the new solar city of Babcock as construction of its first downtown building – a farm-to-table restaurant – got underway Tuesday.

With some permits in hand and more to come, the moment is a milestone for investors who patiently waited out the post-Great Recession doldrums for the mega-project to begin.

Centered on Lake Timber, a blue expanse created by aggregate mines that once were here, the restaurant is going vertical in an area dubbed Founders Square that will be the town’s social and commercial heart.

“We’re making history here, planning it the way it should be planned,” said Phil Trezza, whose firm, Harvard Jolly Architects, designed the downtown.

The challenge for Trezza and his fellow architects was to create visually pleasing buildings that double as micro-collectors for the solar city.

“We tried to go back to the Florida vernacular style that was prevalent at the turn of the century, when buildings had deep overhangs to create shade and airflow,” Trezza said.

The rooftops of seam metal were shaped and angled to allow the solar panels to lie perfectly flat, blending into the aesthetic.

“We call it eco-friendly Florida vernacular,” the architect said.

Next to be constructed will be a discovery center with interactive tools to explore the community, followed buy an outdoor outfitter’s store so residents and visitors can gear up to paddle or hike and bike the trails.