July 18, 2016

Meet the Townmakers

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

July 13, 2016

TOWN-MAKING REQUIRES DIVERSE skill sets, each of which contributes to the creation of a place where people will live, learn, work and play. It is a process that must be patient, committed to listening to the land, and mindful that the place being created will define the lives of the people who live there for generations.

The making of Babcock Ranch has been in motion for more than a decade. Countless creative sessions, site plan iterations, and the feedback of literally hundreds of people have been part of the effort. Babcock’s town makers have stayed the course, and will soon see the first fruits of their labor.

“This stuff is complex, and not for the meek of heart,” said Syd Kitson, Kitson & Partners chairman and CEO. “A lot of work needs to go deep into the details. The details make the difference. We have a great town maker team, including our contractors. We didn’t go after the lowest bidders. We went after people who are the best. People within Kitson & Partners have been working on this for many years and have never given up. They understood the vision, and were determined to own it and not sell out — my partner, Tom Hoban, Pat Bishop, Glenn Geiger, Al Dougherty and John Hillman. They’ve done an amazing job.”

Florida Power & Light has been on the Babcock town-maker team since the beginning and has worked with Kitson to create a town that is solar-powered. An on-property solar panel farm, 75-megawatt power generation plant, distribution network and substation will deliver power to the community.

“We were able to give FPL over 400 acres for a solar center,” Mr. Kitson said. “The solar energy that goes to the substation will feed our community first. At night, Babcock will be powered by FPL’s grid that runs on natural gas. Our town will have clean energy around the clock.”

“A town is something that breathes and has its own life,” said Geoffrey McNeill, principal, AGMCi Planning & Design. “The questions become, how do you approach a healthy community — something that breathes? How do you approach multi-generational communities? How do you create a sense of arrival?”

Land planning and engineering firm Kimley- Horn & Associates distilled the various iterations of the Babcock Ranch site plan into a final design. Their plan respects Babcock’s lakes and preserves while allowing for neighborhood parks, green spaces and trail heads. Mitchell & Stark, a land improvement and earth-moving expert, will repurpose the land previously used in Babcock’s timber operations to suit the site plan.

“Land planning is about taking the residential and nonresidential uses that are required to create a place and applying those uses in a way that creates a town and a sense of community,” said Bill Waddill, senior vice president, Kimley- Horn & Associates. “Understanding the existing features of the land is critical, as well as other principals like walkability, connectivity and sense of place.” “Town making is a process that is both art and science,” said John Hillman, Kitson & Partners senior vice president of sales & marketing. “We start with the land and how best to honor it and work with it — we then bring in the land planners, architects and engineers to define the place. Finally, it’s the social, events and traditions that really create the fabric of the town.”

“It’s really a privilege to say you had your fingerprint on this thing and watch it start to come together,” said John Broderick, an 18-year employee of Kitson & Partners and the company’s senior vice president for land development.

The property is home to wildlife species such as panthers and wood storks. Their continued survival and chance to flourish into perpetuity are paramount goals of Mr. Broderick, Kitson & Partners, the governing environmental regulatory bodies and future residents. Everything related to every species of flora and fauna found in Babcock Ranch has to be taken into account as the town is planned and built. Everything. “Bugs and bunnies,” said Mr. Broderick, mentioning just a couple.

David Mercer, a 26-year-old engineer has a different view — literally. The Babcock Ranch project manager works out of a trailer on the construction site where the new town is being born around him. Near the trailer, lakes are being dug and repositioned, streets are being laid out and sidewalks and roads constructed, and much more.

“I don’t want to use the word privilege but it is exciting for me,” Mr. Mercer said. “Especially on the nerdy end for me. It’s really cool and I’m on-site every day.”