Sep 14, 2023
When Hurricane Idalia swept through Florida, flooding streets, homes, and garages 12 miles away, Babcock Ranch remained unscathed. When a violent cyclone named Ian destroyed large swaths of property and killed scores of people in late September 2022, this town, which was in the eye of that storm, lost only some trees, signs, and roof shingles.
The town never lost power. Internet access, or running water. The rest of southwest Florida didn't fare so well.
That’s because Babcock Ranch is a “hurricane-proof” town. This is according to its creators. It is also Florida’s only fully solar-powered city. It’s also nearly brand new. The project broke ground on Earth Day 2016. Two years later, the first residents started moving in. The current population is 3,148. This number is planned to top out at 50,000 in two decades.
"We spent a lot of additional dollars to make it safe." Syd Kitson told the BBC. He is a former NFL player and Babcock developer and resident. "The entire plan was based on the environment and resiliency. Everything we did was to address those two concerns." Kitson also said the town was planned differently from others.
The town’s houses are built above government code requirements. The 18,000-acre community is 90% undeveloped too. It contains a large nature preserve filled with lakes that collect excess rainwater. The streets are designed to steer floodwaters away from homes. The homes are built on raised foundations. Its houses cost between $200,000 and $1 million. And all must receive at least a “bronze” rating from the nonprofit Florida Green Building Coalition.
The development has run up huge costs. But Kitson insists it’s better to pay up front than suffer the economic issues of disastrous hurricanes.
Photo from Instagram courtesy of @babcockranch.
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