A Billionaire Wants to Build a City of Paradise in the Desert. But It's Members-Only

With a $400-billion entry-fee.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of Telosa.Telosa/BIG

How would you decide the selection criteria for a city that doesn't discriminate? Former Walmart CEO Marc Lore has shed a little more light on his plans to build the "world's most sustainable city", Telosa, in an interview with USA Today.

The man behind the plan says that 50,000 residents could be living in the newly-built city by 2030, thanks to a collaboration between himself and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels — as well as a selection process for would-be citizens that seemingly goes against the founding principles of the proposed egalitarian metropolis.

The city of Telosa is named after the Ancient Greek word for "highest purpose". The plan is to build a city from scratch on an unoccupied 150,000-acre desert site somewhere in the western United States. To start with, it will be built to house up to 50,000 people by 2030 and that number could grow to a population of 5 million people by 2070.  According to Telosa's website, the city will run solely on renewable energy and all of its citizens will be granted equal access to education, healthcare, and transportation — that's if you make it past the selection process. 

The city of Telosa could cost more than $400 billion

Interestingly, the city of Telosa will own all of the land on which its housing is built, in a vision that Lore calls "equitism" — an amalgation of equality and capitalism. In a recent tweet, Lore wrote that if "we get Equitism right, it could serve as the blueprint for a new economic model that the world can learn and benefit from." 

"The sole purpose of creating a city in the desert would be so it's owned by the community, basically take all the appreciation of the land and give it back to the citizens," Lore explained to USA Today. "Taxes paid will go back to the city for infrastructure — roads, tunnels, and bridges — so everyone would know exactly where their money is going." 

Critics, and there are several, have pointed out that the vision of Telosa comes from a man who made a large chunk of his wealth at Walmart, a company that pays it employees so little they often have to rely on government welfare programs despite working full-time jobs. Then there's the fact that, to get things started, Telosa will need an estimated $25 billion in investment, which could rise to over $400 billion in total costs, according to Telosa's website. 

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Lastly, before anyone can become an official Telosa resident, they will have to be chosen via a selection process. Lore told USA Today that the process will be focused on the inclusion of different races, sexual orientations, and religions, though the exact criteria are yet to be formalized. This, alongside that initial $25 billion investment, will likely be the largest sticking point when it comes to Lore's promise of a futuristic city founded on the principles of sustainability and inclusivity.

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