Back to the future: Media mogul Knight Kiplinger favors retro approach to new development

November 3, 2023 | Read Time: 6 minutes

Unveiling The Kiplinger Conservancy

Photo courtesy of Eric Hasert

As featured in TC Palm, written by Blake Fontenay

Read Full Article

Bay Tree Lodge, Knight Kiplinger’s palatial home in Sewall’s Point, is decorated with paintings of beautiful Florida landscapes. However, on a recent visit, I didn’t see anything in there by Norman Rockwell.

That’s a bit surprising once I learned about Kiplinger’s philosophy on the future of development in America.

Surprising, because Rockwell was known for his illustrations depicting small-town life during the 20th century. And part of that future Kiplinger envisions, which is starting to take shape along the Martin-St. Lucie county border, is designed to look a lot like the scenes Rockwell depicted.

A decades-old ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme

Kiplinger has had a long career as a journalist and head of a family-run conglomerate of business media outlets. He’s the editor emeritus of The Kiplinger Letter, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, and

And, in his spare time, he dabbles in development. He came up with the idea for Newfield, formerly known as Pineland Prairie, years ago and is now overseeing its march toward completion.

Work is well underway on the mixed-use project on 3,411 acres roughly bounded by the C-23 Canal, Florida’s Turnpike and Southwest Citrus Boulevard in Palm City. (Citrus Boulevard is due to eventually be renamed Newfield Boulevard.)

The property, the former site of grapefruit and orange groves, was purchased by Kiplinger’s family in 1980. Kiplinger jokingly describes the project as a “get-rich-quick scheme: It’s been 40 to 45 years.”

On a more serious note, Newfield represents a style of development Kiplinger hopes will catch on elsewhere along the Treasure Coast, and other parts of the country as well.

Newfield will have some of the characteristics of “New Urbanism,” although Kiplinger dislikes the term because it sounds too big-city for his tastes. He prefers to call it “traditional neighborhood design,” harkening back to the days when people lived in small towns, sharing a strong sense of community togetherness.

“It’s something new for Martin County and I sincerely believe it’s a better way to build,” he said.

Once build-out is completed over the next 10 to 12 years, Newfield will contain a little bit of everything: The plans call for about 4,200 homes; commercial space for a grocery store and other businesses; a library, fire station and community center; schools; even some light industrial development along the eastern portion of the property.

Newfield's Hiking Area
Photo courtesy of Eric Hasert

Smaller individual lots, more shared spaces

What makes Newfield different is the way it will be laid out.

About 70% of the property will be set aside for recreation and conservation uses, accessible by residents and nonresidents alike. That land includes a trail network covering 450 acres and 1,600 acres set aside for ballfields and other outdoor activities. The conservation area includes a 30-acre preserve for gopher tortoises displaced by other developments ― the first of its kind in Martin County.

Runners and walkers recently got an opportunity to break in the trails during the inaugural Tortoise Trot 5K, a race held Nov. 12 to benefit the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center.

About 115 acres in Newfield will be set aside for “sustainable farming.” A farmers market, currently with about 30 vendors, is already operating on the third Saturday of each month.

The commercial and institutional uses will be concentrated in a town center that Kiplinger is hoping will serve as a de facto downtown for Palm City. The housing will be clustered around the town center on smaller lots to encourage people to walk to nearby amenities and hopefully get to know some of their neighbors in the process

“The idea is smaller owned properties for the individual home owner, more land for public use,” Kiplinger said.

What Newfield won’t have are gated subdivisions or golf courses because, Kiplinger said, “that was not an unmet need.”

Knight Kiplinger Public Speaking

Photo courtesy of Eric Hasert

An alternative to traditional suburban design

Developments of this type are generally considered to be less impactful on the environment because the cost of providing services within compact communities is lower and fewer car trips are needed to accommodate residents.

In the years following World War II, suburban developments began springing up around the country. Many people were drawn to subdivisions consisting entirely or almost entirely of homes, often accessed by a single road, with premiums placed on larger lot sizes and privacy.

In general, these types of developments have become less popular with urban planners over time, in large part because the people living in those communities must get in their cars and drive somewhere else to handle even their smallest errands.

Kiplinger realizes some homeowners are perfectly comfortable with the lifestyle afforded by those post World War II-style subdivisions. Newfield offers an alternative for those who want to try something different.

“This is a housing choice for Martin County’s future,” he said of Newfield. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.”

The Martin County Commission approved the first phase of the project in 2020, following three years of seeking public input. Mattamy Homes, one of the developers of Tradition and Disney’s Celebration community, was selected to handle the work.

Kiplinger said the project has run into a number of delays in getting started, including the COVID epidemic. The first 180 homes and 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of commercial space are expected to be available for sale or lease next fall.

That will include townhomes, priced in the low $400,000s, and single-family homes, priced around $700,000 to $800,000.

Trying to create a legacy

When it’s finished, Kiplinger said Newfield will be similar to the Villages of Urbana, a community he developed in Maryland during the 1990s.

With Mattamy serving as the master developer, Kiplinger’s involvement with the project now is strictly as an advisor. Nevertheless, he believes the development plan approved by the commission is so carefully crafted he’s confident his vision will be fulfilled even if he’s not around to see the finished product.

He’s hopeful it will be the first of many similar developments, like the Storie Florida project being planned west of the Hobe Sound area.

“Maybe the days of the large golf course community are behind us,” Kiplinger said. “I didn’t propose this comp plan amendment to be the only one to use it.”

Writer Blake Fontenay
Photo courtesy of Eric Hasert

Storie Magazine Cover


Register today to receive a copy as soon as it publishes!

I'm a Broker/Realtor