A Year Filled with Major Milestones is Just the Beginning For Babcock Ranch
Every day brings a new opportunity to make history at Babcock Ranch. The environmentally-friendly new town rising just northeast of Fort Myers is wrapping up a year jam-packed with historic ‘firsts’ – and looking ahead to many more exciting milestones in the weeks and months ahead.
While construction of the first commercial buildings and homes got underway in 2016, when the history of this town is written 2017 will go down as the year that Kitson & Partner’s vision became reality.
“The thing that I am most proud of at Babcock Ranch is – if you go back in time and look at all the initiatives we laid out and the promises that we made – we have not only kept the promises, we have gone above and beyond,” said Syd Kitson, Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners.
Kitson’s team set ambitious goals focused on the environment, energy, education, technology, health, transportation and storm safety. The new town is the economic engine that made it possible to put 73,000 acres of the historic Babcock Ranch into permanent preservation, and it is designed to be a sustainable neighbor to the preserve. Half of the town’s 18,000-acre footprint will also be preserved as green spaces – providing residents with unprecedented opportunities to connect with nature.
“We were able to preserve 90 percent of this ranch while accommodating people who continue to move to Florida in a very thoughtful, environmentally-responsible way,” Kitson said. “To us, that marriage of preservation and development is very important and it is how we should be approaching new homes and new communities going forward into the future.”
Kitson partnered with Florida Power & Light (FPL) to lay the cornerstone for sustainable development at Babcock Ranch. FPL’s 75MW Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center went on line at the very beginning of 2017 – generating enough clean, renewable energy to meet total community demand before the first building was even completed. The water utility facilities at Babcock Ranch were also completed in early 2017. In addition to water and sewer, Town & Country Utilities is providing reclaimed water for all irrigation purposes within Babcock Ranch.
A partnership with CenturyLink delivers on Kitson’s promised technological infrastructure. All homes and businesses are equipped with a full gigabyte of fiber-optic connectivity. Another strategic partnership is introducing autonomous shuttles to put Babcock Ranch on the cutting edge for alternative transportation.
Founder’s Square came to life in February of 2017 as the first buildings in the initial downtown district were completed. During a Founder’s Fest weekend celebration in early March, a ribbon cutting ceremony marked the public opening of the Discovery Center at Woodlea Hall, Curry Creek Outfitters and the lakefront Table & Tap restaurant. Founder’s Fest also marked the opening of the first model homes in the Lake Timber Neighborhood. More than 20,000 turned out over the course of that first weekend to preview the new town-in-the-making.
The buzz of daily activity stepped up in August with the opening of Babcock Neighborhood School for students in grades K-6, making Babcock Ranch the first new town where education really does come first.
“Schools are the heart and soul of every great hometown,” Kitson said. “When people come to Babcock Ranch they don’t have to hope that great schools are something that will happen sometime in the future – the school is here right now, today.” With the school building already at full capacity and more than a hundred students on the waiting list, Kitson stepped up the timeline for a central education campus. The full-size K-8 building will open next August with the high school slated to open the following year.
November saw a boom in home sales at Babcock Ranch with the launch of two additional neighborhoods with home prices starting in the $190s. Multiple contracts were signed during the first week of the “Make the Move” promotion and future residents are continuing to take advantage of the pre-construction prices and incentives being offered by all homebuilders. The sustainability features at Babcock Ranch are proving to be attractive to young families and empty nesters alike.
“When you’re surrounded by open spaces and green spaces, when you have great access to parks and recreation and biking and hiking anytime you want – there are incredible health benefits,” Kitson said. “From young millennials to 55 and over, they’re all looking for the same type of lifestyle.”
Babcock Ranch will mark yet another huge milestone during the first week of 2018 when the very first residents move in. They won’t be alone for long. The second closing and move-in is set for the middle of January with a steady stream of new neighbors coming close behind.
At Founder’s Square the general store, Slater’s Goods and Provisions, will be celebrating its grand opening on January 5th. The Health and Wellness Center that takes up the entire east side of the lakefront downtown district is nearing completion – starting the countdown toward the next big event in Babcock Ranch history. The town’s official Grand Opening is set for March 10th.
“One of our goals has always been to set an example that other communities could follow and we’re doing it,” Kitson said. “We have a thousand people a day coming into the state of Florida who need homes. We’re meeting that need in the right way – with a combination of preservation and development.”
Lisa Hall, Hall+Media Strategies, Inc.