Las Vegas Sun

July 23, 2014

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The Vegas Building Rumor Watch: A Skyscraper Farm?

If you’re a city that has already built a faux Eiffel Tower rising out of a casino and a giant lake with explosive fountains that dance to Frank Sinatra songs, perhaps it’s only inevitable that Internet rumormongers will be only so happy to believe you’ll do just about anything.

How else to explain the latest wacky building rumor pinned to Las Vegas: a skyscraper farm.

The so-called “fact” that Las Vegas is building a giant skyscraper that will feed 72,000 people in the city – and serve as a tourist attraction - has been floating around for about a week now on “green business” web sites, Las Vegas building sites, and, of course, Wikipedia. Most of the reports reference a story in something called Next Energy News that cites “Nevada state officials” as saying that Las Vegas is building the $200 million 30-story building, the world’s first skyscraper farm.

Unbelievable? Uh, yeah. But a little too fantastic to totally ignore.

Turns out, the enticing and actually very serious-minded concept of a "vertical farm” was dreamed up by Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University. Despommier has spent the last ten years developing extensive plans and studies that explore the feasibility, necessity, and practicality of a giant tower that would feed city folks.

Web sites that “report” the building of the vertical farm in Las Vegas don’t mention Despommier by name, but include renderings and language lifted straight out of his vertical farm web site.

Problem is... Despommier doesn’t know anything about Las Vegas plans.

“I have absolutely nothing to do with it,” said Despommier, in an email. “My own opinion is that it’s just a hoax.”

It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to prematurely tie a somewhat whimsical-sounding building project to Las Vegas. I enjoy the “dreams” page of the blog Vegas Today and Tomorrow for my fix of never-weres (sample: an Addams Family Resort and Casino!).

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