the urban prospector

Searching for Golden Opportunities in America's Cities


Flemington’s Stangl Factory Forges a New Creative Economy

IMG_4827cFor Valentines Day I took Cailie out to Western Nj. It had been a while since we had done any exploring and I figured this would be a good time to go for a random drive around NJ. We first stopped at T.M. Ward, a great coffee retailer and institution in Newark. While Cailie ran in to get some coffee and peanut butter, I quickly looked through google maps to find a destination: Flemington it was.

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Rural Decline or Rural Urbanism

Downtown Hesperia showing its rural decline.

Downtown Hesperia showing its rural decline.

Cailie and I headed back to my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI to visit my family for the holidays. While we were there, I decided to take her through some of the small towns in Northern Michigan and out to the lake (I almost said shore which certainly shows the effect of living in NJ). We stopped in the towns of Newaygo and Hesperia. Newaygo (pop 1,976) is a 45 minute drive outside of Grand Rapids. It has a commercial strip along and an industrial park near the intersection of two state highways. Down the hill, in the Muskegon River Valley, are a series of grain silos, a rail line and the historic downtown. The downtown has a couple of restaurants, antique shops and its own beef jerky shop. Given the urban amenities along with  great outdoors opportunities including hunting, canoeing, fishing and boating, Newaygo is a very cool town. Hesperia (pop 954) on the other hand is not. Hesperia has many of the same outdoor opportunities as in Newaygo, but is in much worse condition. In this town, the main street is lined with vacant commercial buildings. A grocery store and post office seem to be doing well, but everything else about the town seems to be in a state of decay. Continue reading