March 20, 2017

The Essence of Life at Babcock Ranch

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

The News-Press Published 9:21 a.m. ET March 15, 2017 | Updated 9:40 a.m. ET March 15, 2017

In Roman times, the term “Civitas” referred to the law that bound a social body together, bestowing responsibilities on each individual on the one hand, and the rights of citizenship on the other.  In effect, that law created a “res publica” or “public entity” into which individuals were born or accepted.  As such, Civitas was not just a collective body of citizens, it was a contract that bound citizens together.  This notion of people working and living together in a mutually supportive way to create a better, more fulfilling way of life has served as the foundation for effective town making for centuries.

Civitas is at the core of master Developer Kitson & Partners’ vision for Babcock Ranch, a new solar powered town being built in Charlotte County 20 minutes east of Fort Myers off Florida State Road 31 just north of the Lee County Civic Center.  Kitson’s development strategy is focused on creating a sense of place that will be embraced by residents and visitors alike.  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.  At the same time, the sense of mutual responsibility and desire to contribute embodied by the notion of Civitas will be the fuel that feeds the engine of the town as it grows and prospers.

“Civitas reflects a sense of civic pride and ambassadorship,” said Babcock Ranch president Rick Severance.  “That pride comes from being part of something that is bigger than yourself. You become less self-serving. You start thinking about how others are considered in your decision making. That’s where that fabric of great citizenship comes into play.  Everyone adds value and plays a part in the plan.  You belong to something and you’re willing to share it.  The reason you’re willing to share it is the idea that at Babcock Ranch you as a person will benefit and there is this expansion of your life.  It’s the idea that I’m growing as a person and learning new things.  I’m reconnecting to nature and to my friends and to neighbors and strangers and I want to celebrate this and share it.  So, the way I look at Civitas is that it’s infused by the benefits and the value that the residents will be extracting by being part of this experience.  That will feed Civitas and civic pride and hometown pride for a long, long time.”

“Civitas is about a citizenship within the community, and those two words are very valuable,” said Geoffrey McNeill, CEO, AGMCi Planning & Urban Design.  “The idea becomes that you give back to your community as a citizen.  It’s not just taking. You have a gift that you bring to the community and if you’re sharing that gift with the community, that is part of the citizenship.  Each of us has that unique gift to bring to the community. I did it in my planning and urban design work and my conceptual work for Babcock.  But the residents are going to do that in a much more meaningful and present way.  And they are going to do that every day and every moment that they’re living at Babcock.  Part of the idea of their lifestyle will be their citizenship and giving back to the community and being part of the community.”

By design, Babcock Ranch will instill and cultivate a clear sense of Civitas.  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.  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 to interact, to come to know one another, and to experience life together.  Central to the design are the notions that effective place making is about developing streetscapes that invite a walk-able, bike-able 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 serves as a venue for community celebrations, concerts, civic events, or simply relaxing with friends.

The town’s planners also 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.  Grouped around Babcock Ranch’s parks and streetscapes, the homes and their porches will be positioned tighter to the street to encourage the social interaction, connectivity, and sense of belonging that allow Civitas to flourish.