Developers pull plans for New Mexico scientific ghost town

-A A +A

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The company behind plans to build a scientific ghost town says it is pulling out of a deal to develop the make-believe city near Hobbs.

Pegasus Global Holdings in May announced with much fanfare its selection of a 15-square mile site in Hobbs and Lea County near the Texas border for development of the Center for Innovation, Technology and Testing. Officials said they had hoped to break ground by the end of June.

Last month, Robert Brumley, managing director of the project, said groundbreaking would likely be delayed until August because of problems closing on the land. On Friday evening, he said the group was pulling out "due to some very complicated and unforeseen issues with acquiring the land." The deal involved both public and private parcels.

The group said it would begin reviewing proposals from 15 other New Mexico communities that had expressed an interest in the project. Hobbs and Las Cruces were the two finalists in the original site selection process.

"We are still very committed to locating in New Mexico if a site can be identified," Brumley said in a statement Friday evening.

New Mexico was initially selected for the project because of its abundance of land and its federal research facilities like White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico and Los Alamos and Sandia national labs.

CITE officials insisted the land deal was the only reason behind the decision.

"While the acquisition of the land has taken more time than expected, the CITE project itself continues to move forward and the design and lab development is currently ongoing," Brumley said.

CITE's plans call for a $1 billion city without residents to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets.

The town will be modeled after the real midsize American city of Rock Hill, S.C., complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. No one will live there, although they could as houses will include all the necessities, like appliances and plumbing.

The point of the town is to enable researchers to test new technologies on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life and communications networks. For instance, while some researchers will be testing smart technologies on old grids, others might be using the streets to test self-driving cars.

It was unclear whether project developers would give priority to a bid from Las Cruces, which along with Hobbs was one of just two finalists named in the initial selection phase.

Gov. Susana Martinez joined officials in announcing final site selection for the project in May, which she hailed as "one of the most unique and innovative" economic development projects the state has seen.