Hall’s community plan, pictured on the right, is based on a vision recorded in 1833 by Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church. Hall hopes his communities will be replicated throughout the world.
Typically, land banking companies have a lousy reputation as whilst they can amass great parcels of land, they often have huge challenges in offloading them. Therein lies the great constipation issue as big land buyers can nary be found after the painful collapse of the US economy about a decade ago. Now we hear there is a huge buyer of land – albeit in only one state in the US – and it remains to be seen how much clout and persuasive skills land banking companies in the US have to be able to, finally, offload their massive burden.
Wealthy 69-year-old Mormon engineer, David Hall, is a very hungry man. Inspired by the writings of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movements, Hall is attempting to purchase a total of 5,000 acres of land in four towns in Vermont to create “a network of environmentally and socially sustainable villages, communities, and megalopolises.”
Reportedly having a net worth of nine-figures, Hall is using funding from Novatek, a company he built over 40 years ago that specializes in synthetic diamond technology primarily for the oil and gas industry. He sold the company last fall to Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil-field services company, for an undisclosed sum.
Hall says he has already spent more than $100 million, engaged more than 150 engineers on his project, NewVistas, and plans to spend at least $150 million more to build 1,000 NewVistas developments, housing 20 million people.
Based on the Plat of Zion
The NewVista project is based on the revised Plat of Zion, a paper dating back to 1833 written by Joseph Smith. The Plat of Zion describes an ideal society that would host between 15,000 and 20,000 inhabitants. Hall’s vision is outlined in a 23-page document that details everything from community layout to building materials, business structure, agriculture, and governance.
Hall said that even though the project is based on a religious text, this ideal society can be recreated in any environment, anywhere in the world. The timeline for this project is not clear.
All the properties bought in recent months by NewVista. In blue, all the properties owned now by NewVista Foundation. In red, the Joseph Smith Memorial. All data is approximate. Map by Nicole Antal.
Sustainable, walkable communities
The plats, Hall says, are designed to incorporate agricultural, industrial, commercial, and residential space. The entire community is pedestrian and exploits layout tricks to sustain individual privacy and views of nature.
Each plat will be overseen by a board and hierarchies of leaders with strong Mormon family values. Within the community, each person will be allotted just 200 square feet of living space, but apartments will be soundproofed, with Roomba-sized robots that rearrange furniture for different needs and times of day. Furnishings and possessions not being used will be stored inside 4-by-4-foot boxes that are integrated into the apartment floors and electronically move up and down as needed.
Multipurpose buildings will serve as schools, conference centers, sports halls, and houses of worship, both Mormon and non-Mormon. To help maintain wilderness and animal habitat, and stop urban sprawl, each community will be surrounded by thousands of acres of unplanned nature.
The communities will be owned by a trust that operates two for-profit entities: a property holding company and a capital fund that controls intellectual property and most financial assets.
Will it work?
Even if the NewVistas development doesn’t happen for years, locals worry it will divide the community between those fighting the plan and those hired by Hall to help arrange land purchases and conduct farming experiments.
“One question I can’t answer is how that self-sustained community can feed 20,000 people year-round,” says Michael Sacca, a filmmaker who’s lived in Vermont since the 1980s.
Read more here on the details of how people will live in this new community.