Former Green Bay Packers guard Syd Kitson knows his market. He’s developing a city for 50,000 people who want to make as little impact on the environment as possible.
Babcock Ranch will accomplish this by generating its own electricity. When it was announced earlier this year that Florida Light & Power began building a 75-megawatt photovoltaic array to power an area 3,000 acres larger than Manhattan, most media focused on that aspect of the community’s infrastructure.
But we wondered: What about the rest?
If all goes as planned over the next two decades, almost 20,000 homes will house 50,000 people. Residents will generate garbage and sewage. They’ll drive on streets to reach restaurants, schools, and stores. They’ll relax and play in public parks.
Could this mean some new jobs for public works professionals in the foreseeable future? Yes and no.
Modeled after special district Disney World, Babcock Ranch has the authority to regulate land use, build roads, lay sewer lines, etc. Over time, services like waste disposal, traffic control and lighting, and road maintenance will transition from contractors to a public works staff that grows as the town grows.
Kitson’s purchase included a licensed water and sewer utility, Town & Country, which will build additional facilities and hire about five people. Anyone interested in being operations manager, water operator, wastewater operator, or field technician should contact Kitson & Partners Utility Operations Director Michael Acosta. “Part of the plan is to be 100% grey water for any irrigation throughout the community,” Acosta says. “Those utilities are well underway at this time.”
Public safety will be provided by both Charlotte and Lee counties.
How it all came together
Kitson and his backers bought Babcock Ranch for more than $500 million in 2006 from the heirs of former Pittsburgh mayor Edward Vose Babcock. Kitson then sold the state 73,000 acres. The sale, which created the Babcock Ranch Preserve, is Florida’s largest land preservation deal to date.
More than half the city's 17,608 acres are set aside for parks, greenways, and lakes. The city is bordered by two nature preserves totaling 150,000 acres of protected wilderness.
When it comes to infrastructure assets and services, Kitson says it’s easier to start from scratch than retrofit. "How you design your roads—making the community walkable and bikeable—doing that from the beginning is much easier, he expains.
Buildings will be engineered to withstand hurricanes so residents don’t have to evacuate. The city ion the Atlantic coast, but it's high enough—more than 20 feet above sea level—that developers say it's not at risk from storm surges that threaten other Florida cities.