the urban prospector

Searching for Golden Opportunities in America's Cities

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In Defense of Public Land

Carrizo Peak

Lincoln National Forest: Carrizo Peak rises from the Tularosa Basin.

This weekend 150 armed militia members have occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Oregon operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This armed occupation was in response to the incarceration of two individuals convicted of arson for fires they started that damaged public land in 2001 and 2006; one of which burned 139 acres. This is another in a long string of attacks on the concept of public land. Similar issues (and people) were involved in the standoff at the Bundy Ranch in 2014 where Cliven Bundy had been involved in a decades long legal dispute regarding unpermitted grazing on public land. This attack on public land has been seen in the past few national elections with Republican candidates decrying the oppressive federal government and its ownership of land. While there are many out there who hate the idea of public land, public land is a good thing. Continue reading

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A Brief Tour of Minneapolis (Part 2)

IMG_6847In my previous post, I talked about my adventures with Cailie through downtown Minneapolis and the realization that we needed to go to some neighborhoods to find more interesting and enjoyable areas.

The day after exploring downtown, Cailie and I hit the city with an agenda. We used our Nice Ride pass to go south. We headed through Loring Park to get to the Midtown Greenway. The Loring Greenway was a bit confusing to navigate, a couple of signs or markings could improve that. Nonetheless, it was a great greenway and is the sort of pedestrian/bicycle space that every city needs. Leaving Loring Greenway, we headed down Hennepin’s bike path which during construction was confusing. Fortunately a bike detour was provided which ensured we didn’t have to share the lane with speeding traffic. Continue reading

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A Brief Tour of Minneapolis (Part 1)

The Mississippi River as seen from the Stone Arch Bridge.

The Mississippi River as seen from the Stone Arch Bridge.

It’s been a busy few months. Included in that time, Cailie and I went to Minnesota for a friends wedding. Despite being from the midwest, this was my first time in Minneapolis. Though Minneapolis is on the wrong side of the lake and thus suffers from bad geographic luck, what I found was an amazing city.

We flew in on a stormy Wednesday night and rode the Blue line to Target Field where a friend we were staying with picked us up. Even at night, it seems like much of the line was surrounded by parking lots as opposed to urban development. Though there are downsides to this, it does result in great potential for transit oriented development in the future. Continue reading

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Better Block Newark

IMG_6348This Saturday, the City of Newark hosted an event, Better Block Newark, on Bergen Street between Lyons and Lehigh Avenues in the South Ward. This event was inspired by the Build a Better Block events that have been happening across the country. For those who have not yet heard of the Build a Better Block, it started in Dallas where several community organizers set up temporary improvements to the Oak Cliff neighborhood. Improvements included street scape, street crossings, a median created by placement of planters, and pop up shops. They took over a couple of lanes on West Davis Street and instead of the normal flow of traffic, created bike lanes and sidewalk cafes. It was a low cost and guerrilla style approach to neighborhood improvement. It has since launched similar project across the globe. Here in Newark, thanks to the work of the city’s planning department, it has landed in the Weequahic neighborhood. Continue reading


A City is a Machine for Creating Networks.

IMG_5835-sHow can someone determine whether or not a use is good for an urban setting? What makes one use better than another? Is this simply an issue of preference, or is there a framework of analysis that can be used to make this determination?

Urban areas are incredibly important. They are hubs of commerce, culture and knowledge. Throughout history, vibrant cities haven’t simply been a hub for one or the other, but rather they tend to come together. Ancient Greece contained several bustling harbor cities with traders coming from across the Mediterranean; markets full of goods and throngs of customers. Greece was also the site of the greatest learning and knowledge; discoveries included the Pythagorean Theorem and the first calculation of the diameter of the Earth. Simultaneously there was also a great amount of literature and drama, including the Iliad and the Odyssey. Continue reading


Vertical Farming: A Great Idea Goes Too Far

Taking factory farming to another level.

Taking factory farming to another level.

In my last blog post I explained my opposition to urban farming. To sum it up in less than 1300 words, our food distribution system is relatively efficient with the greatest inefficiencies existing in the last mile of transportation, industrial agriculture takes up too much land and in urban areas, that land is better used for dense urban development.

This vertical farm in Vancouver shows the increased efficiency of vertical farming. (Image from

This vertical farm in Vancouver shows the increased efficiency of vertical farming.
(Image from

Vertical farming has the potential to remove the need for large amounts of land, which would change one of the key points in my opposition against urban agriculture. So what do I think of vertical farming? Vertical farming is a troubled concept, a combination of innovative genius and maniacal stupidity. This duality results from the fact that vertical farming isn’t very well defined. The concept is great, but there are those who want to take the concept beyond the limits of reality. Continue reading


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

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

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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