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7 Fake Cities

Posted by Johnine Larsen on November 24, 2015
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Too much traffic? Too many newcomers? Too many bidding wars?

If you think Seattle suffers from over-population, we found seven solutions for you: fake cities.

Seven totally fake, empty cities exist in the United States, and they’re actually quite interesting.


Survival Town   Nevada


You’ve probably seen this one. You’ve seen the handful of houses, the 1950s mannequins. You’ve seen the motionless cars and the charred remains. And you’ve probably seen the footage from May 5th, 1955, when the government nuked Survival Town, Nevada.

This fake city was a testing site for a 29-kiloton atomic bomb. The government wanted to study in detail how a nuclear blast would affect ordinary life, so they recreated ordinary life in the middle of the desert. They set up a 1950s town and populated it with mannequins, and they even stocked the pantries with food and laid dishes on the table. Then they blew it up.

You can visit the remains today, because, supposedly, the radiation isn’t an issue any more. If Seattle is growing up too fast… a trip back to the 1950s might be the perfect place.


Mars Desert Research Station   Utah


If you really need to get away from people, you can move to Mars. Not the real Mars, but in lieu of technological advances, there is a simulated Mars research station. It’s a fake facility that imitates life on the Red Planet. Everyone must wear a mock space suit whenever they leave the buildings/shelters, and they must act–at all times–as if they’re isolated on another planet. If you’ve watched The Martian, picture that.

You’ll find this desert research station in Utah. The terrain looks like Mars. Aside from warmer temperatures and the presence of a breathable atmosphere, you’d think you were on Mars, if you found yourself part of one of the research station’s six-person training crews. As of 2011, 99 crews had trained here.


Mcity  Ann Arbor, Michigan


This fake city is a small one at just 32 acres. But Mcity includes street intersections, a railroad crossing, two roundabouts, building facades, and a highway onramp. There’s even a bridge, a tunnel, and fake pedestrians! Fake pedestrians who can’t move into your neighborhood or drive up housing prices!

So what is this place? Mcity is a testing ground for driverless cars. It was built in 2015 for $10 million, and it’s the first controlled environment of its kind. So, sorry… Even in this fake city, you won’t escape traffic.


Hogan’s Alley   Virginia


You’ll find a pool hall, bank, hotel, Laundromat, barber shop, and dozens of other buildings at Logan’s Alley. You’ll find people there, too. Some of them innocent civilians. Others: terrorists, bank robbers, drug dealers, and gang members. This place is rough, and most who come here bring a firearm or two. The bank gets robbed twice a week.

That’s because Hogan’s Alley serves as a tactical training facility for the FBI. They run live simulations here with trained actors and dummy ammunition. Need to learn how to storm a house? Go to Hogan’s Alley. Need to practice a ballistic shield? Go to Hogan’s Alley.


James J. Rowley Training Center   Maryland


This is the Secret Service’s version of Hogan’s Alley. Five hundred acres serve as a training ground complete with 31 fake buildings, six miles of roads, an airplane fuselage, and a facsimile of the Marine One helicopter.

You’ll find the James J. Rowley Training Center just outside Washington, D.C., and aside from some budding secret service agents, you won’t find much competition for these buildings.


Fort Irwin   California


We’re finding a theme! This is yet another training facility, and this one gets regular use from the military. But Fort Irwin isn’t just another fake city. It’s more than a dozen fake cities.

This place is huge. Fort Irwin is about the same size as Rhode Island, and it includes entire (simulated) Afghani and Iraqi villages. Troops spend three weeks here before getting deployed oversees, and they spend that time in real-world, very immersive simulations. So although lots of newcomers move to this place, just as many leave it. No overcrowding here!


CITE   New Mexico


Center for Innovation, Testing, and Evaluation (or CITE) is as real it comes when you’re dealing with fabrication. This 26-square-mile town cost billions of dollars to develop. That money went to houses, schools, roads—all of it built to code. CITE even follows a real-world layout, imitating the arrangement of Rock Hill, South Carolina.

This convincing-yet-empty town serves as a testing ground for all sorts of technologies. Security applications, drone technology, energy innovations, disaster-response techniques—you name it, and CITE can test it. Although no one lives here, CITE will receive its fair share of visiting scientists, researchers, and employees.


But if you want a city with people, a city with culture and variety and all sorts of diversity to learn from, a city with Seahawks and Capital Hill nightlife and views of the Puget Sound—well, none of those seven fake cities will cut it.

You’ll need Seattle.

That’s the thing about cities. The streets might clog up with cars, and you might have to wait an hour to eat at your once-underground favorite restaurant, and housing prices might keep climbing, but you gain so much more. You gain a community. That’s the reason people keep coming to Seattle, and that’s the reason this place keeps getting better.

So if you’re thinking about cutting and running, also think about sticking around.

Consider investing your life into this city, like we’re doing. Running away can’t come close to matching the reward of belonging to a community long-term. So let’s put in the work and figure out how to live together.

Maybe that means spending the money for better public transportation. Do we need to expand light rail? Get more streetcar lines? Maybe it means doing something about affordable housing. And with the burgeoning value of real estate, how should we manage green spaces?

This is a conversation to which all of us should contribute. We should vote, meet our neighbors, and get involved in our communities.

Seattle is our home, and through all its ups and down, through all its challenges and rewards, we’re proud to be here.

We’re invested in this city.

We’re building community, one client at a time.