the urban prospector

Searching for Golden Opportunities in America's Cities


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Why I Oppose Urban Farming

This farm in Chicago could be put to a better use leading to a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient city. (picture from thegreenhorns.wordpress.com)

This farm in Chicago could be more environmentally friendly and energy efficient if the land was used for development.
(picture from thegreenhorns.wordpress.com)

It hit the news recently that a vertical farm is coming to the Ironbound. The City of Newark, RBH Group, AeroFarms and the Ironbound Community Corporation are working together to repurpose an industrial site next to the Ironbound Recreation Center into a 69,000 square foot vertical farm. I have mixed feelings about this project, which I will elaborate upon over the next few posts, but I like what’s been happening in Newark recently, I like the work that RBH Group has done here and have a lot of respect for the ICC (I worked out of their offices for about 10 months and they do a lot of great work from general social services to education to environmental protection).

I have a serious problem with urban agriculture. Just to clarify, I have no problem with urban gardening or community gardens. I would much prefer to see a personal garden than the traditional lawn and community gardens provide open space and help create a sense of communities in neighborhoods. My problem is with industrial scale agriculture in urban areas. With the exception of a handful of cities, such as Detroit, there are better uses for land than agriculture.

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Small Storefronts Result in Resilient Retail

This shop is the result of a combination of two pre-existing retail spaces. If this store falls on hard times, it can shrink into one half of the space leaving another small storefront available for a new tenant.

This shop is the result of a combination of two pre-existing retail spaces (notice the structural support running down the middle of the store). If this store falls on hard times, it can shrink into one half of the space leaving another small storefront available for a new tenant.

With the current recovery and reurbanization of the US, there is a lot of construction in old industrial cities and suburbs that are looking to be more dense and walkable. As can be seen in places like Jersey City, the retail component of these buildings often involves larger spaces. This poses a challenge because it sets a higher threshold that a business has to cross before it can afford to rent the space. It is much cheaper to rent 500 square feet than 1000 square feet. There are two problems that result from this. First, there is a smaller pool of businesses that can afford to rent such a place. Typically these are larger more established companies and often are larger chains. Secondly, these larger spaces make it more difficult for a new company to get a foothold in the market. Continue reading