A Peek at Plans for an $80 Million High-Tech Development in Arizona

Bill Gates’ investment group aims to build a smart city from the ground up as a way to circumvent challenges with modifying existing city infrastructures.

Google isn’t the only one looking to build a smart city from the ground up. Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates could be aiming to build a futuristic, tech-focused city of his own — and on a much larger scale — in Arizona.

An investment firm controlled by Gates recently announced plans to invest $80 million into high-tech development on a plot of land about 40 miles outside Phoenix in Belmont, Ariz.

So, what cutting-edge developments are investors planning for this nearly 25,000-acre swath of land?

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A Purpose-Built, High-Tech Community

While relatively uninhabited now, a proposed freeway (Interstate 11) running from Mexico to Reno, Nevada, promises to bring greater opportunity to Belmont.

All of this makes the community ripe for development, real estate attorney Grady Gammage, Jr., founding partner of Arizona-based law firm Gammage & Burnham, and representative for the venture, said in a statement.

Envisioning future infrastructure from scratch is far easier and more cost-efficient than retrofitting an existing urban fabric,” Gammage said in the press release, echoing sentiments from Google’s smart city arm Sidewalk Labs, which has planned a $50 million investment into building a smart city from scratch on a 12-acre stretch on the outskirts of downtown Toronto.

Sidewalk Labs has said that it’s city, built “from the internet up,” will look to address growing urban issues, such as the rising cost of housing and long commutes as well as push for greater sustainability, ubiquitous connectivity and the creation of a new “public realm” that aims to open space back up for pedestrians.

While the aims of the Belmont development are vaguer, it presents a similar opportunity to build a high-tech urban area from scratch as opposed to updating and upgrading existing infrastructure.

Accordingly, the development company, Belmont Partners, has planned 80,000 residential units; 3,800 acres of industrial, office and commercial space; 3,400 acres of open space and 470 acres for public schools.

Specifically, developers seek to build a futuristic 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,” the statement says.

Gammage calls the investment a “patient” one, and as mobility technologies mature, more specific plans for the Arizona community will likely come to light. For now, the company is confident that the city is perfectly positioned to introduce emerging technologies in a truly transformative way for future city residents.

“We know of virtually no other property in the United States so strategically positioned, already entitled, and yet presenting a nearly blank slate of opportunity,” Gammage says.

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Nov 30 2017