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Billionaire Marc Lore is looking for a home for his new city, and Utah could be the place. Here's what you need to know about the future of Telosa Utah.

The futuristic city of Telosa might be coming to Utah

Billionaire Marc Lore is looking at Utah as a potential home for his new city, Telosa. The state is among a handful of locations, including Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, and somewhere in the Appalachians that Lore is evaluating based on economic and regulatory state policies, regional taxation, types of industries and workforces, energy, food, water, waste and materials, climate, infrastructure, availability of land, and liveability. 

Lore earned his fortunes when he sold his startup Jet.com to Walmart for $3.3 billion in 2016. Before that, he sold Diapers.com to Amazon for $545 million in 2010. He’ll finance a chunk of the $500 billion projects with his own money by tapping philanthropists, government grants, and private investors and contributing money from his own pocket. 

The proposed city of Telosa would include indoor farming, energy-efficient buildings, autonomous electric cars, high-speed transportation, and a new model for land ownership aimed at closing the wealth gap. Lore, a former Walmart executive, calls it “equitism.” 

Telosa would retain ownership of the land, though anyone could build and sell homes. As the city grows, the land value would ideally also grow over time—funneled back into the Telosa foundation, investing the proceeds and using earnings to pay for equal access to healthcare, good schools, parks, safe streets, and transportation. 

“It’s sort of a capitalism, reimagined,” Lore says.  

Billionaire Marc Lore is looking for a home for his new city, and Utah could be the place. Here's what you need to know about the future of Telosa Utah.
Renderings of Telosa. Images appear courtesy of Telosa

This is the place

Utah kind of has a thing about creating paradise. The state has been home to a long line of groups that sought new community, religious, or economic ideals dating back to Latter-day Saint leader Brigham Young in 1845. After traveling through Texas, Northern Mexico, and Oregon, Young zeroed in on Salt Lake City until, in 1847, he led 12,000 pioneers to the valley and famously said, “This is the place.” 

Young sought a safe home for the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that would be out of reach from the US government—Utah didn’t join the union until 1896. There, he assumed, “Mormons” would be free from outside economic and religious influences, says Paul Reeve, University of Utah history professor and chair of Mormon studies. 

The pilgrims set up various economic “missions” across the area. There was the iron mission in Cedar City, the cotton mission in St. George, and the lead mission in Las Vegas. Residents had no private property, and everyone lived communally, sharing housing, dining halls, and even wearing unit-ordered clothing and eating the same food. 

A few years later, church members started the ZCMI, later dubbed America’s first department store, where residents were to buy all their goods. The idea was to insulate themselves from the fluctuations of capitalistic market forces and cyclic downturns, Reeve says. “It was an effort to take care of themselves. This idea of utopia.” 

It didn’t work out as they hoped. Most of the missions failed due to backbiting, selfishness, and dissatisfaction with goods within a year. 

Billionaire Marc Lore is looking for a home for his new city, and Utah could be the place. Here's what you need to know about the future of Telosa Utah.
Renderings of Telosa. Photo appears courtesy of Telosa

Paving paradise

Researchers have studied utopias since the 19th century and found that those kinds of economic models rarely work, says Mark Gillem, an urban design professor at the University of Oregon. “They’re counter to human nature,” he says, which is innately selfish and out for one’s self.  He says that most cities grow organically over time versus a top-down economic model. 

But the idea of creating a utopian city has seen a resurgence among wealthy individuals. Bill Gates plans to build a 2,800-acre smart city outside of Phoenix. In Nevada, Jeffrey Berns—who earned his millions in cryptocurrency—plans to build his own smart city on 67,000 acres. Prince Charles started Poundbury in England, which has no zoning and is designed to limit cars. 

“There is a lot of ego involved and a desire to make an impact,” Gillem says.

In Utah, there’s long been a preoccupation with building the promised land, or what some call Utahopia. Both “Mormon” and “ex-Mormon” venture capitalists have fueled paradisiacal projects. “A lot of our values in Utah that came from our founders echo through the ages, so to speak,” says Ben Kolendar, Salt Lake City’s director of economic development. “A lot of innovative ideas are tested here.”

Case in point: Summit Powder Mountain. In 2008, at least 40 billionaires contributed $1 million each to buy Powder Mountain and turn it into a ski-in, ski-out tech community with co-working spaces, futuristic-looking homes, and burning-man-esque conferences every quarter. Four young entrepreneurs—Elliott Bisnow, Brett Leve, Jeremy Schwartz, and Jeff Rosenthal—bought the remote ski resort in Eden, about 60 miles north of Salt Lake City, with dreams of creating an exclusive, socially conscious community, holding events that rally around entrepreneurship, altruism, and big ideas in art, science, and culture. 

Their audacious real estate project has become a mecca for Silicon Valley elite like billionaire Richard Branson, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, “4-Hour Work Week” guru Tim Ferris, and Ken Howery, co-founder of PayPal. 

“Usually, the commodity is, how isolated can you be? Here, it is all about being close together and celebrating that,” architect Brian MacKay-Lyons told the Wall Street Journal. 

Utah also saw the rise of Daybreak, a 4,000-acre planned community in South Jordan designed to have energy-efficient and sustainable homes, with some even located on the waters of Oquirrh Lake. A 1 percent surcharge on all home sales funds the community’s amenities and activities, and a stage was built in the center to draw restaurants and art performances. In the next 20 years, the community could comprise 20,000 residents and 9.1 million square feet of commercial space. 

The developers, a subsidiary of mining company Rio Tinto, will build The Point, a car-less community that “fosters innovation and technological advancement” on 600 acres of state-owned land. 

Billionaire Marc Lore is looking for a home for his new city, and Utah could be the place. Here's what you need to know about the future of Telosa Utah.
Renderings of Telosa, photo appears courtesy of Telosa

Designing the city of the future

The state’s wide-open spaces and natural beauty have long made the state attractive to “rugged individualists who want the government to stay out of their business,” Reeve says. And it’s increasingly showing up as an attractive hotspot today. Utah has been recognized as a top place to live and start a business, touting more tech company exits and millionaires than much of the country. Just this year, Provo/Orem and Salt Lake City landed in the top four of the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities due to growth in jobs and wages.

“Fifteen years ago, trying to recruit people to come to Utah was kind of like, ‘No, I’m going to stay in the valley,’” Utah tech billionaire Ryan Smith told Fox Business this year. “(Now) people are saying, ‘Hey I want to come here, I’ve heard about it, I have friends who have relocated.’”

Not everyone believes the state is a promised land, however. “There are definitely things that are great about Utah: the work ethic, our ability to sell things, our younger population, it’s a great place to start a business and a great place to live,” says Luke Gunderson, founder of Beehive Ventures in Lehi. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a mecca.”

Still, there’s one thing that Utah has a lot of: open land. Lore’s team has visited Utah several times and spoken with business leaders and residents over the last year, and they will start talking to state officials early this year. He says that Utah has plenty of attractive qualities, including less regulation and a financially healthy state.

“And if they’re looking for desert, we’ve got plenty of that,” Kolendar says. “People are going to come because there is a huge demand for housing.”

Lore’s team intends to develop innovative approaches to water, and if so, it could be replicated elsewhere and be evolutionary to other cities. If it doesn’t, then it could be problematic, stressing an already taxed state that’s facing one of the most severe droughts in recent memory. The Colorado River is drying up, and many western states, including Utah, will face mandatory water cutbacks. 

Deciding to build a city is one thing, but actually running it is another, Kolendar says. A massive backend goes into a city, and Telosa’s site must be strategically located to be close enough to another city to tie into sewer, roads, highways, and water. He says there must be services for garbage, paving the roads, processing building permits, and building a diverse economy to ensure it all doesn’t crumble with one recession. 

“No matter what city, you’re going to have expenses and revenues. How are you going to make that work, and who makes decisions?” Kolendar says. “There are some realities there, but I like the bold vision.”

Lore plans to start talking to state governors in January of 2022 and select Telosa’s state partner by the end of the year. Lore’s 50-person team of volunteers and paid staff will pick the exact location in early 2023. 

“We are reviewing potential locations at a high level and have analyzed two sites in the US  in greater detail. We are applying architectural, engineering, economic, and transportation resources to the analysis. Ultimately, we will need to engage local people before we make a decision,” says Jon Mallon, a founding member of Telosa. 

Photo renderings of Telosa. Photo appears courtesy of Telosa

Lore estimates that Telosa could someday cover 200,000 acres—about the size of New York. He’ll seed the city with 50,000 people of diverse ages, incomes, races, and religions, and eventually, 5 million people would live there. His venture capital fund would invest in startups that planted their roots in Telosa, and residents would come for jobs, education, and “a new way of life,” he says.   

“If we created a new, modern American city of 5 million people in a desert, that land would be worth a trillion dollars,” Lore says. The Telosa foundation would accrue this value and then sell off the land to create a diversified portfolio of financial assets, such as hedge funds, stocks, or bonds. The investments, he says, could earn $50 billion a year. That could allow all residents to benefit from good schools, healthcare, and city amenities, no matter their income. 

“So you’re basically going to have three times more than what’s invested today in social services,” Lore says. “It’d be an enormous change in the wealth and income gap.”

Lore’s team is determined not to fall into the pitfalls of other idealistic communities despite the lofty hopes and desire to create a new kind of society. The Telosa team is working with experts in various fields of study to determine the most sustainable infrastructure, urban design, economy, and city services. Mallon says that no solution is perfect, and all human systems have flaws. Mallon says they looked into past projects to pinpoint how to best avoid their mistakes. 

“Finding innovative solutions for those problems can seem utopian, but, in reality, everything we’re doing is based on facts and research,” Mallon says. “This is not a utopia.”

If it were, Utah might be the perfect place to try just one more time. 

Note from the editor: A previous version of this story inaccurately described Daybreak as a, “a 4,000-acre planned community in South Jordan designed to have energy-efficient and sustainable homes. Every house is located on the water, and people can paddleboard to one another’s homes.” This has been updated to, “a 4,000-acre planned community in South Jordan designed to have energy-efficient and sustainable homes, with some even located on the waters of Oquirrh Lake.”

Note from the editor: A previous version of this story neglected to mention that there are other locations being considered for Telosa. These locations are Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, and the Appalachian region.

Billionaire Marc Lore is looking for a home for his new city, and Utah could be the place. Here's what you need to know about the future of Telosa Utah.
Renderings of Telosa. Photo appears courtesy of Telosa

Jennifer Alsever is a freelance journalist with bylines at Fortune and Marker; and an author of young adult fiction. To learn more about Jennifer visit jenniferalsever.com.

Comments (50)

  • John M

    Drought or no drought, water is a huge issue in Utah. When you have towns having to truck water in, reseviors drying up, and the Great Salt Lake turning into a puddle, one has to ask where is the water going to come from.

    The early Mormon pioneers were among the many religious utopians to practice the fundamentals of true Communism. They worked according to ability and were rewarded according to needs. They discovered the same flaw, as the author points out, people are selfish, greedy, and in many cases lazy.

    While I think Telosa sounds like a wonderful utopian dream, I have my doubts about its ability to succeed.

    reply
    • DeAnne Monson

      Just want to point out that the “Mormon” pioneers practiced the law of consecration, not fundamentals of communism. Communism is forced upon individuals and is oppressive. The pioneers, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accepted this way of life of their own free will. This covenant served as a representation of their love and commitment to God and the building up of His kingdom on earth as well as a fulfillment of the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

      reply
      • Chris

        You’re right, you’ve pointed out the fundamental difference between communism and Zion

    • Tony Z

      I agree, not enough water in Utah. Growth and building are not all they’re cracked up to be, I moved to Utah to escape overgrowth

      reply
    • Buckets McGee

      Can the ultra wealthy get more out of hand with what the average makes?

      reply
    • Kolton

      John M I don’t think the United order Mormons practiced can be called communism. If anything it was a utopian economy where people could freely join and freely leave. If it was a communist economy people wouldn’t have been able to freely leave or continue to farm where they lived and just no longer participated in the United order. If it was communism like Russia or China you simply could not say I think I’ll own my land and just opt out.

      Also the author should have explained are the billionaires that are making the utopian town going to just freely give their money because they truly believe in it? Is it a tax write off? Is a portion of the land holdings going to be separately owned by the original investors or is it truly 100% altruistic with no strings attached?

      Yes people are greedy and selfish. It’s human nature. It’s one reason there’s very few altruistic people working as politicians. People become politicians because of power and greed and insider trading, etc, etc. The thing the United order I think is a key difference is it was religious in nature. People believed if they donated items or whatever the church leader would follow god and do a good job. And then the free agency to opt out. I think most people struggle believing governments or even private towns can be a utopian. At least I think if one believed in religious leaders leading there’s a better of chance of negating or mitigating those human traits like greed.

      reply
  • Dylan Linet

    This is a nice balanced article. Critical enough, but not so much as to dampen the feeling of hope for a new idea.

    Most planned communities fail, on the order of 98%. However, even failures provide us amazing opportunities to learn. If this rich individual is willing to pour their life’s work and finances into such an interesting project/experiment/failure(?), then I look forward to learning from the experience.

    reply
    • Scott Andrews

      I’m not sure most “planned communities” fail so much as most planned societies – “social societies” -fail, as it is socialism which is a guarantee of catastrophe.

      reply
    • John flower

      Is this a part of the “great reset”?
      Shall we own nothing and be happy?
      Property ownership is a right that Marc Lore seems to apreciate very much. The only thing that makes this work is that it would be privately owned, thus giving real power to the owners to do anything they want.
      What will the political consequence of other people owning one’s property?
      What rights would people have?
      What system of law would exist in a privately owned community? Would the constitution of the United States of America apply to these owners? Would the people have the right to a redress of greivances?.what about the right to free speech, the right to travel,and the right to bear arms?

      reply
      • Patti Crompton

        Very good points made.

  • Russell M

    He’ll need to build east of the 100th meridian, read more JW Powell books, or both if he wants this to succeed

    reply
  • Dennis M Golden

    I agree where’s the water going to come from to support all these people?

    reply
    • Tony Z

      It’s not coming from anywhere, that extra water doesn’t exist

      reply
  • Jason

    This article failed to mention that several other states, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Texas or somewhere in Appalachia are being considered. It’s not just Utah. It’s a pipe dream regardless.

    reply
    • Suz

      This very first paragraph states that each of those other places is being considered.

      reply
      • Michele Visarraga

        Originally, this information was left out of the article. It was added later.

  • CJ

    I live in Daybreak… and your description is… cute, but not accurate.

    reply
  • Richard Altman

    Where you have people, you cannot have a utopia! Think about it.

    reply
  • Kathleen

    Is your last name Nelson?

    reply
  • Caroline

    This is literally just a company town, minus the mine or lumber baron. I’m sure there’ll be ‘strikebreakers’ though.

    reply
  • Rod

    So what is the difference between government designing how 2live, or some egocentric rich guy? If there isn’t enough room 4individuals to self express, implosion is not just likely but inevitable. It’d work best in a community where individuals see need and fill it. Central planning is doomed. There have been communal living arrangements in history. Works best in small satellite communities, not large scale.

    reply
  • DeAnne Monson

    Just want to point out that the “Mormon” pioneers practiced the law of consecration, not fundamentals of communism. Communism is forced upon individuals and is oppressive. The pioneers, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accepted this way of life of their own free will. This covenant served as a representation of their love and commitment to God and the building up of His kingdom on earth as well as a fulfillment of the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

    reply
    • Cody

      How would this be forced on someone ?

      reply
    • Kolton

      I just was going to say this. The United order practiced the law of consecration. People freely joined or left. Few people point that free agency out which is the key difference between a utopian based economy or communism.

      reply
    • M Coke

      The Pioneers, who chose to live in this type of community, according to the law of consecration, which provided opportunity for individuals to care for each other as equally as they care for themselves, found it difficult. Like it has been said, human selfishness creeps in. How is a large utopian city suppposed to operate in like manner with upwards of 40,000 people under the direction of one person who owns it all? Sounds like communism to me.

      reply
  • Nick

    Stay out of my syate of Utah! Wr already have plenty moving in and driving home prices up to the point you cant afford an average home without making $100k+ per year. We already have the FBI and CIA sucking our water tables dry….. Keep your communist ideology away from our great republic!

    reply
    • Carol

      Yes yes yes

      reply
      • Bob

        Utah is the place to do it! People there are as dumb as they come and will buy in quickly.

  • Balrog

    If we move into Telosa, will we be required to get rid of our gas snow blowers & collection of harbor freight power tools?

    reply
  • Sterling Diether

    I loved hearing about this, but I would please ask that if you are taking about the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints that your call us by our real name not Mormon.

    reply
  • Tony Z

    Not a good idea. There isn’t enough water resources in Utah, and there isn’t going to suddenly be a new source of water.
    Over building is more of a threat to Utah than just about anything I can think of. It will totally destroy the way of life Utah is know for. Think before letting greed rule your decisions.

    reply
  • Mando Hand

    Screw this BS. Take your socialist crap weirdo city elsewhere. Stay out of Utah.

    reply
  • Dee

    Feel free to keep your goofy brand of One World Order Communism out of Utah! We’ve already had way too much “Cali-fornication” now! Califori is the place you aut’ta be! So ya can load up da truck and mov’ta Beverly…Hills that is…swimin pools and movie stars. That’s the perfect place for this many Kooky’s!!!!!

    reply
    • not1word

      Correct.

      reply
  • NICOLE

    Where would it be? We have enough here in Utah. Let’s not harm the rest of the land. Let’s not take away from Utah’s beauty.

    reply
  • Mauricio

    A future, end of a era, futuristic Ghost town……..

    reply
  • Gb

    I’m shocked that the article states that Utah has plenty of land. Yes if you go towards Price, Vernal, Richfield and those areas. But they are rarely considered for these developments. Where is there land in Utah for a full new city that is close to SLC metro? Maybe south of Utah Lake? North of Davis County?

    reply
  • Ingrid

    Can anyone say Extreme Land Grab…?
    This whole mess is nothing but dangerous for this beautiful state and the fine people who live here. As soon as Gates is mentioned ANYWHERE, y’all best be on High Alert! Something reeks.

    reply
  • Louis White

    Everything about the Telos project indicates collective, egalitarian, progressive statism, i.e., power and control by elites. Critical and objective consideration of content at the Telos website reveals the absence of one particular demographic, until the very last image.

    reply
  • Steve

    This quasi-communist may be considering Utah, but I would hope our state will say, “Hell No!” to this Stepford-like crap. All billionaires seem to come to the conclusion they need to be the ‘new vision’. Go elsewhere and load your new new city with droids from another state. Utah already has too much socialist influence in SLC and Park City….. no more is wanted

    reply
  • Larry Winn

    The United order that Brigham Young set up was only for small far out colonization. They did not last long nor were they meant to. The last one was Ordervill and as soon the people were able to feed and fend for there own family’s it soon dispensed. Because the hard worker no longer were willing to give the lazy member the same of everything for continuing far less.

    reply
  • not1word

    More like feudalism reimagined. 5 million people who never own any land, but who are cared for by the feudal master. What happens when the peasants fall out of favor with the master of the castle? Simple banishment, or are there more punitive options?

    reply
  • Marley Green

    Utah has not the problems…that many states are enduring..NOW, But this action will not help…..but kill the things we have today….(to many are moving here now) and. As we get more…it will get worse..shortages…water..minerals..food.. employment…(space) Utah is getting more.and more…LIKE CALIFORNIA….

    reply
    • Kirk Sugden

      Stop fooling yourself. The Wasatch front is more Calfornian than California

      reply
  • Macecanuck

    Disney like woke idealistic utopian ideology will not work. When will these rich fools learn that we don’t want to be controlled and live like “1984”. They are rich because of freedom and capitalism if they can’t see that they’re not smart enough to lead these ideas. What’s happening to America? Parents have raised there kids on TV propaganda, where everyone deserves a participation trophy and there are no consequences for your actions. Life isn’t fair. Grow up and put your big boy pants or we’ll end up like China. Finally, we are facing a crisis in America, if we adopt these assinine ideologies we will fall. Once America falls so does true freedom.

    reply
  • George A Strutzel Jr

    Water period Is The point e must never forget We Just Don’t Have It !!!

    reply
  • Rich

    Oh boy, can’t wait to see when he sells it

    reply
  • LEVI BRUCE CLARK

    Lolol

    reply
  • Valerie

    Don’t drink the Kool aid.

    reply
  • SnowKnitty

    I live in SLC and find all the naysayers’ comments ironic. The population is growing and more housing IS being built at a mind-blowing pace with few sustainable practices incorporated, transportation treated as an after-thought, water recycling omitted, and air pollution choking us and dimming our views of this beautiful valley.
    Telosa is a much needed experiment in providing the next generations with what the current generations have and seem to take for granted. We need to TRY to solve these problems because our current way of life cannot be scaled up adequately meet the needs of future generations. The fact that this is a different approach than what the current generation knows is no reason to say, “he’ll no”. It is cause to be inquisitive and analytical. Parts of it may work and parts may not. We can learn from both. Some of these comments sound like individuals are unwilling to put even that much effort into securing a viable future for Utah. I believe that creating a viable future for the next generations fall on us and we have failed thus far. Let’s step up to the task.

    reply

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