How to Do What Tesla Did for Cars, But for Towns

A group of next-gen entrepreneurs, most of them in their 30s with little experience in development, are breaking ground on a public village in Utah ski country. Starting with a blank canvas and a great deal of collective searching, both the funding and design of their Powder Mountain shared space has been crowdsourced to appeal to the ethos and lifestyle choices of the fifty or so families who have invested in the community. There’s no shortage of socially and environmentally-conscious offerings, from farm-to-table eateries, pop-ups, co-working spaces, pedestrian-friendly streets, public art. Despite sounding like a veritable mash-up of hip-chic buzz-words, from its “rustic-aesthetic”, “curated artisanal retail experience”, “organic modernism”, and “bohemian capitalism”, the deeper beauty of this collaborative planning model is that community engagement comes built-in.

Might this idea-sourced model inspire our city and civic leaders across America, who work tirelessly to better understand and reach out to their own constituents? Powder Mountain co-owner Elliott Bisnow puts it this way: “What Tesla did to cars, we’re going to do with towns!” The convening power of these idealistic yet savvy social entrepreneurs grew because no one was reaching out to their generation of younger and hipper entrepreneurs. Our city and town leaders may benefit immensely from replicating this “art of just gathering great, innovative people” from across diverse sectors – including underserved communities – to together create the places we all want to call ‘Home’.

The Resort That Crowdsourcing Built

By Andy Isaacson | The New York Times | April 12, 2015

Eden, Utah — Shortly after a sunset that was deemed “epic” by a young man wearing a beanie, a crowd assembled one Friday night in January at a private lodge atop Powder Mountain, a ski area an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. A 30-year-old Finn who was a founder of a mushroom beverage company out “to make ’shrooms the new kale” mingled with a former chief creative officer for Microsoft and a founder of PayPal. On a sofa, a New Yorker with the music licensing agency Ascap received a shoulder massage from a self-described “bohemian capitalist” working in health care technology.

The invited guests, most of whom had paid $1,000 to be there, moved into a circular lounge with cushions, designer pendant lights and panoramic views, where a 19-year-old musician from Queens, Candace Lee Camacho, sat behind a piano. An artist in residence that week, Ms. Camacho said it was her first time in the mountains.

“I wrote music, and contemplated existence and where I fit into the world as a human being,” she said, beaming.

Since buying the Utah backwater two years ago, Powder’s owners — a group of entrepreneurs, most of them around 30 years old with no experience in resort development — have hosted several of these salon-inspired “weekend jams” on the mountain they plan to develop, as well as a Pay for Success symposium with the White House, off-site retreats for Patagonia and the Knight Foundation, and the country’s first fat-biking national championships.

This summer, they plan to break ground on a public village envisioned as a next-generation alpine town. 

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