Got a riddle for you. Sunshine plus houses equals what?
Well in a place called Babcock Ranch it equals America's First Solar-Powerred Town!
This is a real thing! I know because we visited it recently.
On the drive out, it felt as if it were in the middle of no place. The back of beyond. Lots of trees and ranches and cow and horses and nothing else. But apparently that was because we seemed to have driven in the 'back way". Oops. As it turns out, the town is only six measly miles from Ft. Myers which is a goodly sized city of around 83,000 people and everything that goes along with that. All the indicators of what we have come to consider indicators of "civilization" such as McDonalds and Walmart were just 10 minutes down the road in Ft Myers.
I must say that since we apparently came in the "wrong" way it was a relief after many miles of not much but pretty scenery, to finally arrive. I was beginning to think that it didn't really exist! But at last there it was. The sign for Babcock Ranch. And what a pleasant surprise it was. Once we made the turn, before us lay a pretty little bridge and on the other side the town of Babcock Ranch.
It was beautifully landscaped with gently winding roads which led us through neighborhoods of very pretty houses of a variety of sizes, styles and colours to the actual town center. Or at least the beginnings of it. It is just so beautifully thought out.
They have a plan and it's a really good one.
To be fair, the town is only barely begun, but already there is a school, two restaurants, a medical office, various stores, including Curry Creek Outfitters, Slater's Goods & Provisions and the all important ice cream shop, Square Scoops. But it's a great beginning and everywhere, I mean everywhere that you look, there is construction going on. We were told, that eventually, the residents will be able to do things like place an on-line order to the local grocery store (Publix) and it will arrive shortly thereafter in a driverless electric car. O.M.G. It's like the Jetsons!
The entire plan was the brainchild of Syd Kitson. He partnered with FLP (Florida Light & Power), various environmental groups and conservation and sustainability minded folks to bring his unique and interesting vision to life. His thought was to create a town where, once you arrive home from wherever you've been, you park the car and never need it again until you leave the town. The entire town is very pedestrian and bicycle friendly with specific bike lanes and bicycle repair stations. They are hopeful for electric street-legal golf cart travelers too and there are lots of parking spaces specifically for any and all electric vehicles (with chargers).
There are, of course, solar light fields (that we never actually saw), and solar panels on the roofs of the businesses. The plan is to eventually reach the point where more clean and renewable energy is produced than consumed. There were even solar trees sprinkled all around. What a genius idea!
Babcock ranch is 18,000 acres in size and is surrounded by a 73,000 acre wildlife preserve and that's pretty awesome. There are already hiking trails in place with plans for many miles more. A whopping 50% of the property is dedicated to natural greenways, parks and lakes and I love when developers add that to their plans.
There is a town green that will host all sorts of entertainments, a town newspaper (!), plans for a music and art center, community pools & recreation areas all over the place, a community garden, sports parks and, well, everything any town needs. If it isn't already there, the plan for it's existence is in place. (I am very hopeful that a library is part of the plan! Every town needs a library)
It was an intriguing and appealing concept.
We saw so many model homes. There are a lot of different builders involved and therefore a lot of different ideas and visions. There were a few houses in particular that we really liked. And the price tags were surprisingly affordable. Obviously there are higher and lower end price points, but I half expected the costs to be jacked up just for the cache of living at Babcock Ranch. They were not!
There were, in fact, so very many model homes, that we didn't get to see them all! Wow! But we saw enough to get the idea.
We have no plans to move to Babcock Ranch despite that fact that we really liked what we saw. A lot. Maybe if it were closer to the ocean? One of the sales people that we talked to mentioned that whenever she goes to the beach she comes to Venice. Interesting. We are already in Venice. Walking distance to the beach. And it's one of the reasons that we chose to live in our town.
Well in the future maybe, if Babcock Ranch becomes the runaway success that it appears to be heading toward (it's already even more successful than they anticipated) maybe another builder (or the same one?) will find some land by the ocean and do it again. Now THAT might lure us away.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.