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Former Walmart executive Marc Lore envisions the world’s first 'woke city’ somewhere in the U.S., costing upward of $400 billion and with an application to live there.
E-commerce billionaire Marc Lore wants to build the world’s first “woke city” he's calling Telosa somewhere in the desert U.S., where he says residents will have equal access to health care, excellent schools and safe environments, regardless of income. But to live there, people will likely have to meet diversity and inclusion criteria.
The $400 billion metropolis, tabbed “the new city in America,” will begin building once properly funded, according to Lore, a former Walmart executive, but he has not said how much funding is needed to start construction.
The word Telosa comes from the ancient Greek word Telos, meaning “highest purpose,” and the term ‘woke city’ that Lore uses means being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice. Lore is aiming for Telosa to be a diverse place housing various races, genders, sexual orientations, religions and political affiliations.
“The mission of Telosa is to create a more equitable, sustainable future. That’s our North Star,” Lore said in a promotional video. “We are going to be the most open, the most fair and the most inclusive city in the world.”
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Lore hasn’t said how he’d get the money to fund Telosa, and has yet to acquire land or water rights, precursors to persuading people to leave real cities for his hypothetical one. Nor has Lore figured out how it would operate or persuaded any government officials to grant it the power to function.
Lore's mission statement for Telosa is to "create a more equitable and sustainable future" that can "become a blueprint of future generations." That's backed by a 150,000-acre design proposal with eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a drought resistant water system, according to Telosa’s website.
“We have a chance to prove a new model for society that offers people a higher quality of life and greater opportunity," Lore said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a team of 50 volunteers and staff that includes architects, economists, engineers, climate experts, historians and designers are helping create the screening criteria for potential residents.
Big Potential Challenges
Brooks Rainwater, a senior executive and director of the National League of Cities, said having a city that requires an application screening process could lead to “a host of problems, not least of which, just thinking about what the criteria at hand and how might those criteria change over time. The last thing we would want to see are criteria that might be perceived or actually discriminatory in some way.”
According to Telosa’s website, equitism is a new economic model based on the premise that citizens should have a stake in the land. As the city does better, so do the residents. It retains capitalism but with an additional funding mechanism for enhanced service throughout the city. With equitism, Lore hopes to create a higher level of social services to residents, without the additional burdens on taxpayers.
“We have a chance to prove a new model for society that offers people a higher quality of life and greater opportunity,” he wrote.
While there’s no location for the city, Telosa’s website says Lore and his team are scouting locations across the U.S., including Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region. Lore hopes to have 50,000 residents spread across 1,500 acres move to the city by 2030, which would cost an estimated $25 billion, according to USA Today.
“I don’t want to be the ruler of the city; this is more of a public service,” Lore told USA Today. “I’m wanting to give it a place to grow and flourish. It’s not meant to be a private city; it’s meant to be a city for everyone—with an innovative way we live.”
Since Lore is looking at mostly desert locations, there will not be sufficient water. Lore told USA Today that in order for this to work, the city will have to use 80% less water per person.
Not a New Concept
This isn't the first time that a utopian city has been envisioned by a wealthy person. Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced in 2017 plans to build a smart city outside of Phoenix on 2,800 acres, and millionaire Jeffrey Berns bought 67,000 acres in Nevada for a smart city, according to USA Today.
But NLC’s Rainwater is skeptical of the concept. “There are a whole host of cities out there in the U.S. and around the world that ... have become great over time because of the nature of cities shaping and forming throughout their history with the people that live there,” he said. “So I'm a little bit weary of the ideas of billionaires wanting to create cities out of whole cloth.”
Andre Claudio is an assistant editor at Route Fifty.