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An empty city, built by a company, designed as a lab

September 8, 2011 |  9:50 am

Traffic New Mexico has its share of strange sites (Roswell, anyone?), but “The Center” may be the weirdest one yet.

Basically, it’ll look like a mid-size American city, complete with urban buildings, suburban neighborhoods and rural communities. But there will be no human residents.

Instead, “The Center” is being planned as a massive metropolitan petri dish for new technologies such as smart grid applications, renewable energies, intelligent traffic systems, next-generation wireless networks and more.

The idea is to use real-world infrastructure rather than “a sterile lab environment,” said Washington D.C.-based technology development firm Pegasus Global Holdings, which is spearheading the project. The only people there will be those holding 350-odd jobs designing, developing, building and operating the “city.”

The company will privately finance the effort, which may require up to 20 square miles of space and already has the blessing of New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez. Revenue will come in part from user fees that Pegasus plans to charge the private companies, nonprofits groups, educational institutions and government agencies who will use “The Center” as a testing ground.

Over the next five months, Pegasus will conduct a feasibility study. But “The Center” isn’t the only attempt to conduct sprawling futuristic experiments.

Masdar City, being built by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company in the United Arab Emirates, is designed as a zero-waste area with no cars and a slew of renewable energy facilities. Similar efforts include Tsukuba Science City in Japan and Clean Tech Corridor project in Los Angeles.


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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: "The Center" hopes to test technologies that may ease traffic snarls such as the kind common on the Westside. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times