An excellent Alain Bertaud interview where he discusses the idea of creating new cities.
He does not in general agree with creation of new cities,
New city projects often start by highlighting their nice infrastructure, like Neom in Saudi Arabia. But nobody will move to a city with a good sewer system but no jobs. Historically, infrastructure follows the market, not the other way around. This is why, for example, the Greeks founded my home city of Marseilles: It exported local wine and cork and imported olive oil. During Roman times it became a portal for shipping grain from North Africa to Gaul. Then there’s the issue of cash flow. When you build a new city, you have negative cash flow for a long time. Essential early infrastructure like roads and airports aren’t cheap, and it takes time for land sales and tax revenue to start coming in. This might work for new capital cities like Canberra or Chandigarh, which had the financial backing of millions of taxpayers, but it won’t work for most new cities.
On successful examples of new city formation,
True new cities start with something that attracts a lot of people and go from there. This is the story of Orlando, one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. Disney created a lot of jobs there in the 1970s, and thanks to tourism, you quickly get a major international airport. Before you know it, you have a diversified city... Often, new international trade routes are the draw. For example, expect to see new cities emerge in Central Asia as China’s Belt and Road initiative creates a lot of new hubs. This is the story of Atlanta, by the way: It built an economy around being a rail junction. Or we might see new cities in the Arctic, as climate change opens up new Arctic shipping lanes. This is the story of Vancouver — a connection to the Pacific Ocean.
On what he thinks is necessary requirements if we are to establish new cities - the need to marry planning with bottom-up market-based evolution,
The first thing you need to do is clearly demarcate the public and private realms... These are design problems that need to be done all at once and in a top-down way before a healthy city can start to grow. Second, you need to set up some way to finance infrastructure... If you set it up correctly, new development should incrementally pay for itself... Beyond these two considerations, don’t overthink it. The key is to lay the groundwork for a land market that will reveal the right way to allocate land uses and densities. This is partly what went wrong with Brasília — planners thought they could plan out every little detail about the city, right down to how many shops each neighborhood should have, and the results have been less than ideal. Compare Brasília to Hong Kong, arguably one of the most successful new cities in modern history. Instead of micromanaging everything, the government focused on stewarding the public realm and providing quality public services. Otherwise, they mostly let markets design the built form of the city in a spontaneous and evolutionary way.
This nuance is missing in the likes of Paul Romer's Charter Cities.
I am not convinced by the idea of building new cities, especially in developing countries. They are too grandiose as projects to be structured to a reasonable degree of satisfaction through planning and enabling regulations in the messy political economy and weak state capacity environments. However, what's possible is that once new communities start to emerge from housing developments, governments can step in with enabling regulations and investments to support their growth as future small towns.