Google Wants to Be a High-Tech Landlord

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Google parent Alphabet already has its hands in a lot of different businesses, but the company could be adding one more to the list: real estate.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs is looking to "delve into an ambitious new arena: city building."

Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the Journal, corroborating an earlier report from The Information, noted that the Sidewalk Labs is putting the finishing touches on a proposal it will present to Alphabet to build new, smarter houses, offices, and retail spaces within existing cities.

"The company would seek cities with large swaths of land they want redeveloped—likely economically struggling municipalities grappling with decay — perhaps through a bidding process," the Journal reports. "Sidewalk would partner with one or more of those cities to build up the districts, which are envisioned to hold tens of thousands of residents and employees, and to be heavily integrated with technology."

The goal, according to the report, is to "create proving grounds for cities of the future," which would feature amenities like self-driving cars along with "more efficient" electric and water delivery systems. Such an effort would, of course, cost a whole boat load of cash — the Journal estimates "tens of billions of dollars."

The one thing Sidewalk Labs reportedly doesn't want to have to deal with in this process: city regulations. The company wants the freedom to build without having to worry about pesky issues like parking, street design, or utility regulations.

As for whether this will come to pass, we'll just have to wait and see. Once Sidewalk Labs finishes its proposal, Alphabet will have to yay or nay it.

Sidewalk Labs emerged last year as an initiative that will apply the Silicon Valley incubator model to solving problems that affect cities around the globe.

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