Coming Soon: A City in a Petri Dish

Sep 6, 2011 5:06pm

Twenty square miles of land in New Mexico are set to be turned into a real-life Sim City by one Washington D.C. – area company. But there’s a catch:  it will be a ghost town.

Pegasus Global, a telecommunications and technology testing company, announced Tuesday that it planned to invest $200 million in this city simulation, which will operate as a functioning city, complete with urban canyons, suburban neighborhoods and rural communities. It just won’t contain any people.

The city will mimic the mix of old and new infrastructure found in most mid-size U.S.  cities, said Pegasus CEO Robert Brumley in a statement.

“[It] 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,” said Brumley. 

Anthony Rufolo, a professor urban planning at Portland State University, said the announcement left him with a lot of unanswered questions– and he suspects Pegasus Global has plenty too.

“It sounds like a risky concept to me,” Rufolo said. “Obviously some things, like the canyon effects of broadcast could be tested, but I don’t know how you could test recycled water without people there to generate waste water.”

Rob Melnick, dean at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, disagreed and called the project “long overdue”.

“It’s a very smart platform to test and advise city governments,” said Melnick.  He said that even without a population, the faux city will be able to provide some real insight for city governments, adding: “I have high hopes.”

The company is currently conducting a five-month feasibility study of where in New Mexico the city should be built.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department said Pegasus anticipates the private test city will create 350 direct jobs.

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