A new town modeled after Rock Hill will soon rise from the New Mexico desert.
Portions of the town will look like downtown Rock Hill, while other areas will resemble local neighborhoods, industrial sites, and even farm land. If you look closely, you may be able to pick out familiar east-west streets such as Dave Lyle Boulevard.
Construction of the town, capable of handling 35,000 residents, is estimated to cost $400 million.
About the only thing missing will be the Come-See-Me and ChristmasVille festivals and the people.
While each of the 100 homes will have electricity and a flushable toilet, no one will live in City Labs.
The site is what its name implies: a giant lab that will allow full-scale testing of things such as intelligent transportation systems, green building technologies and smart-grid electricity concepts.
The full-scale lab is being built by Pegasus Global Holdings of Washington, D.C., a technology development firm.
Bob Brumley, senior management director of Pegasus Global Holdings, picked Rock Hill as the model for the lab.
But Brumley did not use high-tech methods to select Rock Hill. He selected Rock Hill from an airplane seat as his flight descended into Charlotte.
He had just come from a meeting with architects in Atlanta where they talked about what needed to be incorporated into a full-scale testing lab.
The lab needed to embrace construction methods and materials from the 1850s to todays smart cities, Brumley said.
It also needed to have a traditional downtown, as well as suburban sprawl, which typically follows a westward path.
Brumleys eyes were drawn to Rock Hill as it unfolded below him. When the pilot dipped the planes wings and Brumley saw the citys extension to Interstate 77 he knew he had found his blueprint.
But he didnt know what city was below him. He saw the skyline of Charlotte and made a few notes.
A few minutes on Google Maps told Brumley he had seen Rock Hill.
It had all the things we were trying to capture, Brumley said.
Michael J. Fitzgerald, executive vice president of Skytech, which provides services to pilots and planes at the Rock Hill-York County Airport, understood what Brumley saw.
From the air, Rock Hill is something of everything, Fitzgerald said. There is lots of infrastructure and its not all jammed together, but not too far away.
Brumley then had his team use Google maps, removing all the foliage.
Some things were added his English designers added a soccer stadium as well as a multi-story downtown that resembles Charlottes skyline.
Earlier this week, Pegasus Global Holdings announced it would build City Labs near Hobbs, N.M. Pegasus selected the site because of the cost of the land, access to electricity and the proximity to federal and university testing labs.
The initial investment will be about $400 million and could expand to $1 billion over 10 years. The project officially called the Center for Innovation, Technology and Testing is expected to create 350 permanent jobs in an area hard hit by the oil bust of 1980s.
Before the announcement, City Labs was referred to as Project Sandbox. When people saw the conceptual plans, they asked if it was based on Lincoln, Neb., or Tampa, Fla., Brumley said.
He kept Rock Hills location a secret until he told an Associated Press reporter.
When the Associated Press mentioned the Rock Hill connection, City Manager David Vehaun started getting phone calls and emails. At first, Vehaun was a bit perplexed until he read the story and contacted Brumley.
If you want to build a new $1 billion community, I couldnt think of a better community to model it on, Vehaun said.
In an email, Mayor Doug Echols wrote, imitation is the highest form of flattery and we are pleased to be chosen as a model for this futuristic enterprise.
I would hope that if there is a need for real world testing applications, Rock Hill can be included.
Vehaun noted that the city has made significant investments in technology, such as its fiber optic network.
Work on City Labs is expected to start June 30.
Unlike traditional cities, City Labs will start with its underground backbone infrastructure that will allow the lab to monitor activity throughout the 17-mile site.
Brumley said there is a need for a full-scale testing site such as City Labs because firms need real test data to secure the financing to make an emerging technology a commercial success. He said the full-scale lab will be the best environment because there wont be people.
Removing people makes a safer place to test, Brumley said.
Its an amusement park for the scientists, he said.
Don Worthington 803-329-4066