Sunday, 17 December 2006

Edge Cities

Quite a hackneyed topic now. But here's a summary:

This new form of urban centre, the so called Edge City, contains all functions in a spread out form. They are typically situated on lands a distance from old downtowns and were villages or farmland 30 years before. Differing from typical post-WWII suburbs, Edge Cities will contain tall office buildings, white-collar jobs, shopping and entertainment, prestige hotels, corporate headquarters hospitals etc. The variety of functions can be confusing: office buildings are situated juxtaposed to shopping malls, strip shopping centres, rich beside poor (Garreau, 9). The automobile is supreme: these developments are built at the 'automobile scale'.

In general, they started to form as people moved to the suburbs in the post-war period. Following this, retailing moved. This is exemplified by the extensive mall construction on the 1960' and 1970's in the USA and Canada. Finally, employment moved out to join where the workforce lived and shaped (Garreau, 4). These areas cannot grow unless and until there are jobs: people have to live there first (Garreau, 87).

A demand existed for large scale buildings that would not always have been possible to have been built in the old downtowns. They needed massive amounts of car parking and support from people from all over the region. The land requirements for some uses, such as hyper-markets, could not be met (Garreau, 23). For example, Sears Corporation moved to an Edge City where they were able to consolidate operations, enhance the quality of the workforce and the living and working environment (Garreau, 28). However, it often the fast growing entrepreneurial high technology firms locating there (Garreau, 29).

A key component of an Edge City is office space. Industrial and warehouses workers do not demand spaciality retail, high-end services, bookstores, restaurants or hotels (Garreau, 31). Proximity to highways and airports also important (Garreau, 39). Factors in the attraction of Edge Cities are the typical push factors: dirt, crime, stress, congestion and costs. Pull factors include: greater safety, new housing and space (Garreau, 55). Big corporations move out for the advantage of being near major transportation interchanges. Moreover, they do not necessarily have to be near other companies (Garreau, 79).

An advantage of Edge Cities is that they can make it easier for people to live close to their jobs. In contemporary lifestyles, it is often the case that the place of residence has to be convenient to two places of work. Edge Cities are a cheap and efficient way to house large numbers of people close to jobs (Garreau, 87).

There are problems with some Edge Cities. Sun City region in Arizona, USA is a privately owned development with its own private police force and has resisted incorporation to avoid taxation (Garreau, 184). Many Edge cities in the USA are private but often assume the duties of a municipality such as libraries, fire department swimming pools, water, garbage collection. They are like shadow governments but are not elected in the sense of a municipal government and thus have little accountability (Garreau, 184-5). This new form of privatized living arrangements has serious implications for control over who is allowed to live there and the freedoms available to residents.

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