What is Civitas?
Time to brush the dust off your high school Latin textbooks.
Civitas has its roots in Roman history but the Latin term has found renewed meaning in Babcock Ranch, the solar city under development in Southwest Florida.
In ancient Rome, Civitas meant citizenship. The right of Civitas granted citizens the ability to govern themselves, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. As the Roman Empire expanded, Civitas was extended to provincial communities that were viewed favorably. History and Latin buffs can read a more detailed interpretation of Civitas in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities posted here.
Of course, the meaning of Civitas has evolved over the centuries. But the root of the idea remains the same: An involved citizenship is the key to a successful community.
Designing for Residents & Guests
That’s why Babcock Ranch has implemented design standards to encourage people to get involved as citizens. “The best way that people can participate in a community in not to be left inside their houses in the back room or the back porch, but out on the front porch and walking the streets, walking the trails being part of the community…so that they’re aware of what’s going on, that they participate in that,” says Geoffrey McNeill, the CEO of AGMCi Planning & Urban Design.
The benefits of being involved in the community are clear. “As they’re giving back, their lives will be richer for giving back than if they’d stayed inside their houses,” says McNeill. “They’re not just buying houses at Babcock, they’re buying a lifestyle and being part of a living community.”
Everyone has something to contribute at Babcock Ranch. “You have a gift that you bring to the community,” says McNeill. “I’m doing 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.”
Towns need civic pride to thrive, much like ancient Rome. “Civitas is the fuel that feeds the engine of a town or place,” says John Hillman, senior vice president of sales and marketing with Babcock Ranch developer Kitson & Partners. “Everything we do at Babcock is for a greater public good: Our downtowns are open to anyone; our paths and trails are for people to enjoy at no cost.”
Citizens’ civic pride will radiate to others. “My hometown is Babcock Ranch and I want to celebrate that with other people, I want to tell people about it,” Hillman says.
Although Civitas benefits the community as a whole, individuals gain in the process too. “When you are a stakeholder, you have a vested interest in the success,” says Rick Severance, president of Babcock Ranch. “When you have skin in the game, you’re actually less self-serving, you actually think 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 overall plan.”