Florida's 'Eco-Utopia'

March 21, 2019
Florida has been the site of many recent climate disasters, including red tides and hurricanes. A new green-certified inland community hopes to be a model for the Sunshine State's housing future.
Photo: Unsplash/Stijn te Strake

Florida has been the site of many recent climate disasters, including red tides and hurricanes. A new green-certified inland community hopes to be a model for the Sunshine State's housing future.

Opened to residents in January 2018, Babcock Ranch is a sustainable development encompassing 18,000 acres. Developer Kitson & Partners had land preservation top of mind when planning the community, along with a strong sense of community built around a love of the natural world, disaster resilience, and emissions-free energy production. Babcock Ranch is billed as the nation's first solar-powered town; Babcock's visionary Syd Kitson tells The Washington Post, “Our whole thesis is that when Florida continues to grow, we need to do it in a sustainable way,” Kitson said. “Babcock is proving people want it and that it’s really desirable.”

The autonomous shuttle was parked for the night, but the town square was otherwise hopping. Kids in tie-dyed shirts cartwheeled on a lawn that has a pair of solar trees — free solar charging stations curved into massive green stems. Parents slipped off their shoes and admired the peach-hued southwest Florida sunset over the 300-acre lake. A singer strummed beneath an oak tree at the farm-to-table restaurant. The Friday scene at this community, billed as the nation’s first solar-powered town, unfolded like a director’s take on an eco-utopia.

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