ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The group behind plans to build a $1 billion scientific ghost town in New Mexico has narrowed its list of potential sites from 16 to two.

The Center for Innovation, Technology and Testing, or CITE, will be built near Hobbs, on the New Mexico-Texas, border, or near Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, said Bob Brumley, senior managing director of Pegasus Holdings and its New Mexico subsidiary, CITE Development.

“They are two really good sites,” he said. “Now we just have to go through … and find the one that best suits this business.”

Two sites were chosen instead of one, he said, because the company is intent on meeting its June deadline for breaking ground on the project and details have yet to be finalized for securing the land.

Plans call for development of what is being billed as a first-of-its kind smart city, or ghost town of sorts, on about 15 square miles where researchers can test everything from renewable energy innovations to intelligent traffic systems, next-generation wireless networks and smart-grid cyber security systems.

The project will be modeled after a typical American town of 35,000 people, complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. No one will live there, although they could. Houses will include everything from toilets to washing machines, Brumley said.

New Mexico was chosen for its open spaces and its proximity to federal research facilities, like White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico and Los Alamos and Sandia national labs.

Brumley has put the price tag for the project at about $400 million for the initial phase, which is slated to open late in 2014 or early 2015. He said the investment could hit $1 billion in 10 years.

The project will create about 350 permanent jobs, he said, and has the potential to create thousands more.

A review of the project presented to its advisory board Tuesday by Science Applications International Corp., a leading defense contractor, said the project “is operational, feasible and addresses an attractive market with unmet customer needs.”

Brumley said 16 communities expressed an interest in securing the project. An Albuquerque proposal was among the three finalists, but that was rejected because the land near the city is more expensive and the site was within five miles of 5,000 houses, which he said produce too much “noise.” Additionally, he said, the experiments could interfere with communications signals in a community that close.

The company on Tuesday filed a lease application with the New Mexico State Land Office for state trust land northwest of Las Cruces and entered into a development agreement with Lea County for land west of Hobbs, he said.

“When we have a full understanding of the two proposals, we will visit with local leaders and community members to make sure this type of project fits the vision of the two local areas,” State Land Commissioner Ray Powell said in a news release.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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