Bold vision

$400 billion ‘city of the future’ might land in the Lone Star State

$400 billion ‘city of the future’ might land in the Lone Star State

Telosa rendering
America's utopia could sprout up in Texas. Marc Lore/LinkedIn

In 2020, a consulting firm anointed Houston the “American city of the future.” Forbes, meanwhile, has touted Austin as the U.S. city of the future. But the Bayou City and the Capital City might seem puny compared with a roughly 200,000-acre city of the future that could rise in Texas.

The Lone Star State is among several places in the U.S. under consideration as a site of Telosa, a brand-new city envisioned as being home someday to 5 million residents and being a model for sustainability and resilience.

Promoters of Telosa estimate the built-from-scratch city would cost more than $400 billion to finish over a 40-year span. They anticipate the first phase, costing more than $25 billion, will host 50,000 residents spread across 1,500 acres and be completed in 2030. Bloomberg Businessweek explains that each 1,500-acre neighborhood would be encircled by subsequent layers of 1,500-acre neighborhoods.

If Texas were to add a community with 5 million residents, it would be the state’s largest city. In today’s terms, that population count would eclipse the combined population of the Austin and San Antonio metro areas. By comparison, the population of both the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas currently exceeds 7 million.

Telosa, derived from the Greek word for “highest purpose,” is only a concept at this point. Developers of the city say they would need to raise money for the project from private investments, philanthropic contributions, federal and state grants, and economic development incentives.

The brainchild of Telosa is Marc Lore, who recently stepped down as president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. ecommerce business. Walmart purchased Jet.com, an ecommerce website that Lore co-founded, in 2016 for $3.3 billion. Lore previously co-founded Diapers.com, whose parent company was acquired in 2011 by Amazon for $550 million. Today, Lore is concentrating on plans for Telosa.

“If you went into the desert where the land was worth nothing, or very little, and you created a foundation that owned the land, and people moved there and tax dollars built infrastructure and we built one of the greatest cities in the world, the foundation could be worth a trillion dollars,” Lore tells Bloomberg Businessweek. “And if the foundation’s mission was to take the appreciation of the land and give it back to the citizens in the form of medicine, education, affordable housing, social services: Wow, that’s it!”

The Telosa website explains that the city would be able to sidestep infrastructure issues and government policies that restrict development in existing U.S. cities.

“The clean slate allows the opportunity to redesign a city with the needs of people at the center,” according to the Telosa website. “We benefit from the knowledge, innovation, and expertise that has been learned since other cities were built in the U.S. We can build the most sustainable and resilient city that will serve as a model, helping residents in existing cities along the way.”

Telosa would be open to anyone wanting to settle there, including entrepreneurs, mentors, educators, manufacturers, artists, students, telecommuters, and corporations.

The Telosa website dismisses the notion that the city will be a utopia, although it will strive to incorporate sustainable approaches to infrastructure, urban design, economic vibrancy, and municipal services. 

“Utopian projects are focused on creating a perfect, idealistic state — we are not. We are firmly grounded in reality and what is possible,” according to the Telosa website.

Utopia or not, Telosa can’t be built without an abundance of land available for development. At nearly 172 million acres, Texas likely could accommodate a city encompassing about 200,000 acres. After all, a number of massive ranches are scattered across the state, including the famous 825,000-acre King Ranch. King Ranch is slightly bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

Aside from Texas, U.S. spots on the radar of Telosa’s visionaries include Appalachia (a region covering 420 counties in 13 states), Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah.

Lore appears to be undaunted by the mountain of logistical steps that’ll be required to transform Telosa from dream to reality.

“If you really want to go after a moonshot — you have to start with a big, bold vision, you need to raise the required capital, and surround yourself with the very best people in the world. If you get those three things right you can do incredible, magical things,” Lore writes on LinkedIn.