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Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Green Building and Environmental Preservation at Heart of Planned Town

Planners unveiled this week the design concept and master plan for Huckelberry Creek, a new town of winding paths, nature trails and walking friendly through mixed-use neighborhoods for 5,000 homes set amid a natural creek and lake. The plan evolved from a weeklong charrette conducted by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) involving scores of elected officials, administrators, landowners, engineers, biologists, environmental scientists and local residents.

The master plan calls for a town center set against the lake with a backdrop of fully-grown cypress trees, featuring a satellite city hall for the newly incorporated area of Panama City. The town will have a wide variety of housing, from bungalow-style cottages to condominiums, town homes and single-family homes. Areas closest to the town center will have higher densities, with larger homes and lots in the outlying areas.

"I'm very encouraged by the involvement of the community in the design process," said DPZ Principal Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. "We followed very closely the environmental analysis and are working together to create a unique town that accentuates the elements in the natural environment."

The 2,132-acre site includes approximately 25 percent wetlands, which will be preserved and enhanced in development stages. The town plan designs neighborhoods around the town center and wetlands, creating a series of interconnected nature trails that meander throughout the entire community serving to connect the neighborhoods with each other as well as to the town center. The nature trails shall be designed such that pedestrian, environmentally clean golf carts, and in some areas the equestrian accommodation will play a role in the overall experience of nature trails and neighborhood connectivity. Each neighborhood will be within a five-minute walk of a recreation area featuring a localized amenity. The main streets winding around the wetlands will lead to, but not through the individual communities.

"We want to encourage people to use cars less and use other transportation," Plater-Zyberk said.

"We have a chance to do something right from the very start," said Antonio Cabrera, CEO of Miami-based The Epoch Corporation, which will develop Huckelberry Creek. "We are going to feature the environment that is here - from carnivorous insect-eating plants to cypress and pine trees to the beauty of magnolias in full bloom. The creek and the lake will be an integral part of the life at Huckelberry Creek."

Cabrera said The Epoch Corporation would contract with selected homebuilders to develop residential neighborhoods.

At the heart of Huckelberry Creek will be the town center that includes mixed-use buildings with retail at grade and condos above. A linear park connects two lakes, which opens up and terminates the City Hall in one end and the welcome center on the other. Also planned within the town center are a library and museum. The lake and mature cypress grove at the lake's center will form the backdrop to the town center.

Huckelberry Creek also will have medical facilities and civic amenities such as schools, police and fire stations, places of worship, an equestrian center and a nine-hole par-three golf course that is open to the streets. The regional golf course for Bay County is adjacent to the neighborhood and will be accessible through a walking trail.

Recognized for its worldwide leadership in new urbanism, DPZ has designed a vibrant community with a Town Center a series of neighborhoods connected by a rich public realm that includes many different types of open spaces such as parks, greenways, plazas and trails.

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