- Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, might be getting ready to jump into the "city building" business, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Sidewalk Labs, a lesser-known division of Alphabet, has prepared a proposal to create a smart city district — complete with housing, retail and office space — within an existing city.
- Sidewalk's ultimate goal is to create a "proving ground" for cities of the future with a focus on state-of-the-art infrastructure and self-driving cars, according to The Journal.
The plan is limited to cities that have large developable areas with economically depressed zones that are particularly ripe for a facelift and tens of thousands of new residents. However, Sidewalk reportedly would want to be exempt from many surrounding city building codes, zoning and other regulations — a desire that is guaranteed to generate pushback from local government. In addition, there have been no details about the funding source for this huge undertaking, which is sure to cost in the tens of billions of dollars.
The Journal reported that the clash between high-tech ideas and traditional urban planning have typically resulted in major roadblocks to this type of development. Also, the unfortunate legacy of city building is the "antiseptic" and inorganic cities of Brasília and Canberra, Australia, which critics say have been unable to mimic the energy and authenticity of a naturally evolved city.
Wellness company Delos and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik are also planning a bit of city-building themselves in Tampa, FL. Vinik, with the guidance of Delos, is developing a 40-acre area around Amalie Arena to be the first "wellness-focused city district" and WELL Certified district. Delos officials said the technology and knowledge exists to transform the built environment of cities, in which 90% of people live, into something that can add to human health instead of harming it.