September 07, 2011

A Town Built for 35,000 People with No Residents

A technology company is planning to build a 20-square-mile city in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. No one will live there. Sound a bit science fiction?

It's more science than fiction. Pegasus Global Holdings has announced “The Center,” a small model city (of a size that would hold about 35,000 residents were it real) that will be used to test advanced technologies including renewable energy solutions, so-called “intelligent” traffic systems, prototype wireless networks and smart-grid security systems, the Associated Press (News - Alert) has reported.

Though no one will live in the city, it will feature ordinary American urban features such as highways, houses and commercial buildings.

The point of the $200 million project, says Pegasus Global Holdings CEO Bob Brumley, is to provide scientists from many different areas of study to test their projects and innovations aimed toward urban renewal and green technologies in a kind of “real world” setting. It's also a place to help scientists and innovators to attract investors. In addition, the project will make money by charging user and operation and maintenance fees, selling energy to the grid by subleasing some of its state land for the development of office buildings, hotels and restaurants.

“The idea for The Center was born out of our own company's challenges in trying to test new and emerging technologies beyond the confines of a sterile lab environment,” said Brumley. “The Center will allow private companies, not for profits, educational institutions and government agencies to test in a unique facility with real world infrastructure, allowing them to better understand the cost and potential limitations of new technologies prior to introduction.”

Pegasus has been working with the state of New Mexico on The Center for the last 18 months. Initial planning is complete, and the project's initiators will soon appoint an advisory board and pick a site for the town. Ultimately, The Center will be located on state-owned land in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe corridor or in the Las Cruces area near the Texas and Mexico border, said Brumley. New Mexico has a long history of high tech endeavors: the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories are located in the north of the state, along with an Intel (News - Alert) factory. In the south are the White Sands Missile Range, Fort Bliss and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

The project, which is expected to create about 350 jobs initially, could ultimately create about 3,500 jobs “outside the fence” said Brumley.

“This could give New Mexico a leadership position in the commercialization of federal research,” he said. “It will serve as a magnet for investors.”

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Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves