With a solar field and self-driving shuttles

People are starting to move into Babcock Ranch, an ambitious development in Florida more than a decade in the making. With a solar field and self-driving shuttles, it’s a suburb that its creators hope will be revolutionary.

At a cursory glance, Babcock appears little different from numerous other planned communities around Florida. It has single-family detached houses arranged into neighborhoods, and the seven homebuilders that partnered with Kitson offer a range of models from two to five bedrooms, priced from the $190,000s to more than half a million dollars. The sales pitch rests on their high-tech and green features.

These are Alexa-controlled smart homes with 1-gigabit fiber internet and wiring for electric cars in every garage; kitchens and laundry rooms piped for natural gas cooktops, ranges, and dryers; and metal roofs to reduce heating and cooling costs.

The town’s buildings, constructed to match or exceed the latest county codes, soaked up everything the furious 2017 hurricane season had to offer. During Irma, the eye of the storm came right over the development. At 30 feet above sea level, it didn’t flood. There were a few trees down, but minimal damage overall.

Babcock Ranch is still in its infancy. Only about 20 families have taken up residence so far, a number that’s expected to grow to about 100 by the end of this year as more new homes become ready for occupancy. The Babcock Ranch Neighborhood School already has 156 students (who live outside the town). Shannon Treece, the principal, says the development growing up around the school provides hands-on, real-life lessons in environmental stewardship.

As a solar-powered city of 19,500 homes with downtown, schools, restaurants, shopping and leisure facilities, and more than 50 miles of nature trails for walkers, runners, and cyclists. Babcock Ranch will have about 50,000 residents.