Solar power generation takes center stage at Babcock Ranch

Recent additions to Founder’s Square at Babcock Ranch shine a spotlight on the new town’s commitment to solar energy. Solar panels installed on commercial rooftops, electric vehicle charging stations and five “solar trees” installed within the initial downtown district help position this charming new hometown on the cutting edge.

Located off State Road 31 north of the Lee County Civic Center, the solar-powered town being built by Kitson & Partners will eventually be home to 50,000 people living and working in a town of 19,500 homes and apartments and six million square feet of commercial space – all constructed to Florida Green Building Standards. Sustainability features – from water conservation to alternative transportation – are woven right into the infrastructure of this environmentally-friendly community. But solar power is what really sets Babcock Ranch apart.

The planners of Babcock Ranch spent a lot of time talking about how to make the community sustainable, how to make it different than anywhere else – and solar energy to them was the key. The cities partnership with Florida Power & Light (FPL) makes them the first solar-powered town in the country.

The Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, located on 440 acres of former sod-farming field on the northern edge of the new town, generates more clean, renewable energy than the new town will ever consume. The 74.5 MW solar field went online in December of last year – before the new town’s first buildings were constructed. But the partnership with FPL extends beyond the solar field. Earlier this summer, FPL installed five “solar trees” around Founder’s Square – functional sculptures with solar panels powering charging stations for smartphones and other handheld electronics. The solar trees are also an educational tool for students at Babcock Neighborhood School who will learn about renewable power generation by monitoring data feeds from the solar tree located just outside their door. Late last month, solar panels placed on the rooftops of three buildings at Founder’s Square added another 121 KW of solar generating capacity. These rooftop arrays are the first of many “micro-communities” of solar generation that FPL will be installing on top of commercial buildings throughout the new town.

The technology and renewable energy focus makes Babcock Ranch a living laboratory where great new technologies can be incubated, adopted and continually improved to stay on the cutting edge.  For future generations, Babcock Ranch is creating an environment where future generations will feel open to exploring new ideas and using technology in new ways to transform their lives.

To learn more about Babcock Ranch or to purchase a land lot or home in the sustainable SWFL city, contact an expert member of the 9 Core Realty sales team.


Booming Hispanic homeownership helping fuel U.S. housing market

For years, the myth of easy, accessible American homeownership and upward mobility—the caricatured image of white picket fences, suburban living, and keeping up with the Joneses—has needed a refresh in light of post-recession realities and the affordability crisis. But, with looming demographic shifts poised to change the U.S. housing market, it’s time for another change in popular perception.

The typical American homebuyer, like much of the rest of the country, is increasingly young and Hispanic. According to statistics from the 2016 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, jointly released this May by the Hispanic Wealth Project and the (NAHREP), the U.S. is in the midst of a Hispanic homeownership surge. Since 2000, Hispanic households have increased by 6.7 million, representing 42.5 percent of the nation’s overall household growth, a trend only expected to accelerate. Latinos are expected to make up 52 percent of new homebuyers between 2010 and 2030, fueled in large part by the nation’s 14.6 million Latino millennials and growth in the increasingly diverse suburbs.

At a time when homeownership hovers near a 50-year low, more than 330,000 Hispanics formed new households last year. This is happening despite a low rate of inherited wealth in the Hispanic community, a shortage of low-cost housing options, and higher-than average loan refusal rates among potential Hispanic homeowners. Demographers note that high workforce participation and the “fervent desire to own a home” have driven growth in Latino home buying.

Many reports show this demographic playing an increasingly larger, and in some ways outsized, role in the U.S. economy. The most recent “State of the Nation’s Housing” study from the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) predicts minorities will fuel for three-quarters of the gains in U.S. households, with Latinos accounting for one third of these gains. It’s a symbol, perhaps, of the economic strength of Hispanics, which make up 17 percent of the U.S. population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hispanics accounted for 76.4 percent of the growth in the country’s labor force between 2010 and 2016, made up 20.8 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2015, according to the Kauffman Foundation, and started almost a million new, Latino-owned businesses between 2012 and 2016.

While it may not come as a surprise that Hispanics will represent the largest segment of the Texas population by 2020, according to state data, and will be the prime source of population growth in both the Lone Star State and California, Latino populations are also on the rise all across the country. Many of the fastest-growing Hispanic communities can be found across the South, in areas such as Russell County, Alabama, and Bryan County, Georgia. Even North Dakota, not a traditional center for Hispanic migration, has four of the top ten fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the country, according to Pew Research.

To learn more about the state of the real estate market or to get investing today, contact a member of the 9 Core Realty team.

Florida was leveled by the housing bust, but now is back on top

Few places were hit as hard by the housing bust and Great Recession as Florida, which is about to be to be walloped by Hurricane Irma. But in recent years, Florida has climbed nearly all the way back. Home prices that plunged 50% during the bust have rebounded.

Florida’s unemployment rate, which more than tripled to 11.2%, has plunged to 4.1% — lower than the national average. Economic growth, per person, is about 50% greater than across the nation. During the recession it was falling faster than anywhere but Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

Experts say Florida was in recession for a good two-and-a-half years longer than the nation as a whole. But by 2012 they went from lagging the overall economy to leading it. The tourism industry, the state’s largest sector, is going strong, as is home building. People are flooding into the state, fueling growth and making Florida the nation’s third largest state by population.

The state depends on people moving to Florida and visiting Florida. Both those things are doing just fine for now. Experts say if Irma does as much damage in the state as feared, those factors are unlikely to change.

Regaining both visitors and residents is vital to a region’s recovery after a natural disaster. One of the problems for New Orleans’ economy 12 years after Hurricane Katrina is that so many people left and never came back. Population there is still 18% below pre-storm levels.

No one is expecting a permanent population loss for any Florida city. But since much of Florida’s strong economy is dependent on its population growth, even a slowdown in that migration would start to hamper the pace of economic growth, according to the experts.

One of the biggest problems the economy might face after the storm is finding the workers needed to recover and rebuild from damage, particularly in the construction industry.

But there are pockets of Florida’s economy that are struggling, particularly the signature citrus industry. But problems there are caused by a disease known as citrus greening, carried by an insect, which leaves the fruit green, bitter tasting and thus useless while killing the tree.

It has slashed production of oranges by more than two thirds since 2003, and left many growers in deep financial problems with mounting losses. Experts fear that Irma could cause widespread bankruptcies among already struggling growers, depending upon where the storm hits.

But in the overall scheme of the state’s economy, oranges are no longer a crucial industry, employing less than one-half of a percent of those with jobs in the state.  To learn more about the real estate market in Florida contact 9 Core Realty today.

This Airline Has Some Florida Real Estate It Wants to Sell You

After 18 years flying as an airline for the price conscious, Allegiant Travel Co. wants to add real estate development to its list of corporate activities. The company is embarking on an audacious plan to build a 22-acre resort compound with a hotel, condominiums, bars, and restaurants on the Florida Gulf Coast in Port Charlotte.

The real estate offshoot, called Sunseeker Resorts, will have a 75-room hotel, along with about 720 condo units, ranging from $650,000 to $1.1 million based on size. The property, when finished in late 2019 or 2020, will also include North America’s largest private-resort swimming pool.

Longer term, Allegiant wants to tout its success with the Sunseeker property as a bid to begin managing other leisure-destination hotels for fees, further diversifying its revenue, President John Redmond said Tuesday. It also sees lucrative opportunities in developing new food and beverage brands and restaurants it can use at other locations, plus meeting and banquet space, a marina with boat slip leases, and the ability of owners to rent their condos as part of the hotel operation.

All this new business development is, of course, far afield from the core operation of running an 88-jet airline with nationwide, less-than-daily service from small burgs to leisure destinations in Florida, Las Vegas, and Phoenix—a model that has proved wildly profitable. The airline is simultaneously working this summer to improve its operational reliability, which suffered earlier this year, while also shifting to an all-Airbus fleet by 2020.

To learn more about Southwest Florida real estate and land development contact 9 Core Realty today!