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Does a '15-minute city' represent the future of towns? In a Utah neighborhood, that's the idea

The Point, Utah
Posted at 12:18 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 12:18:59-05

DRAPER, Utah — In the virtual world, our circles can be global. They can even reach outer space. In the tangible world, the world of grass and roads and bookstores and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, might our circles be shrinking?

That’s the idea behind The Point, a city that right now doesn’t exist. It will rise up soon halfway between Salt Lake City and Provo.

“What’s today the Utah State Prison will be Utah’s, and maybe the country’s first, intentional 15-minute city," said Alan Matheson, The Point's executive director. “You can walk from the center to any place on the site within 15 minutes. And you can access the things you need most in your day-to-day life, essentially a blank slate of state-owned land we’re going to turn into the city of the future."

In this vision, the city of the future looks more like a small suburb. To hear Matheson and others tell it, 15-minute cities think far beyond. The Point is designed for families to need just one car. The development of Culdesac in Tempe, Arizona calls itself the “first car-free neighborhood built from scratch.” This whole idea started bubbling two years ago in Paris, where the mayor ran on creating “la ville du quart d’heure," the 15-minute city. But the larger trend isn’t so clear.

“In the past 20-30 years, we’ve an increase of the number of municipalities grow by approximately 10,000," said Tulane University professor Jesse Keenan.

He says the idea of a 15-minute city depends on who’s pitching it.

“What we see is more home rule or more desire for localized governance," said Keenan. "As more cities split off, they control and really stop development because they don’t want outsiders coming in.”

This aligns with a recent report that found more than 80% of America’s metro areas have gotten more segregated in the last 30 years. Might 15-minute cities turn our circles into bubbles?

Each of us has our circle, the people we see and places we go every day that form most of our experiences. The Point, Paris, even Culdesac Tempe have grand ideas. Who will embrace them?