By Matt Hamblen
Belmont Partners, a real estate investment firm owned by Bill Gates, recently purchased 25,000 acres of land in Arizona to create a smart city called Belmont.
The city will will include high speed digital networks and autonomous vehicles, according to a statement by Belmont Partners. The purchase price: $80 million.
The area, about 50 miles west of Phoenix is now a blank slate, but could someday be the home to 80,000 residential units, with 3,800 acres for offices and retail and other commercial buildings. About 470 acres is designated for public schools, according to reports.
So many details are yet to come. The location is near a planned, but unfunded, extension of Interstate 11. Arizona Technology Council officials said the location and the lack of development on the land bodes well for creating an integrated technology community.
In a few Asian countries, some of the most ambitious smart city technology ventures have taken place on unused land, reducing the need to alter an existing urban landscape with the resulting outlay of funds and years spent in development time. In Singapore, the government figured out early on that a redundant fiber optic connection to nearly every existing building was essential to an efficient smart city.
It remains to be seen whether Belmont becomes more of a Disneyland-like planned community or one that offers technology insights and approaches to older cities already densely developed. There’s need for both. The prospect of applying a Bill and Melinda Gates mindset and their deep commitment to a moral, social action philanthropy is welcome. It will act as a shot in the arm for the many cities and Internet of Things vendors who have been toiling at the “smart city” concept for several years.