An investment firm run by Bill Gates has put down $80 million to develop a planned community in Arizona. The 25,000 acres of land is about 45 minutes west of Phoenix, in an area called the West Valley. The community, which Gates wants to turn into a “smart city,” will be named Belmont.
“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” Belmont Partners, the Arizona real state investment company involved in the deal, said in a news release.
The proposed freeway I-11, which would connect the Belmont area to Las Vegas, makes the land an ideal spot for a new community, according to Ronald Schott, the executive emeritus at the Arizona Technology Council.
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Of the 25,000 acres, 3,800 will be used for office, retail, and commercial space. Another 470 acres will be used for public schools. That leaves enough space for 80,000 residential units.
“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model,” Belmont Properties said.
This isn’t the first intentional community built to optimize urban life in the area. About an hour north of Phoenix, the experimental town Arcosanti was built by architect Paolo Soleri in the ’70s. The retrofuturist site follows Soleri’s philosophy of arcology, an integration of architecture and ecology. The town is rumored to be one of the inspirations for the architecture of Star Wars’ Tatooine.
It’s unlikely that Gates’ new city will be as ambitious or aesthetically sublime as Soleri’s project. But perhaps it will bring utopian ideas of planned communities, mostly abandoned in recent decades, into the 21st century.
Allan Bangirana is a freelance writer for Newslibre and Spur Magazine. He is also the co-founder of the Innovware project.
He is a freelance consultant passionate about tech, programming, games and entertainment.