Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Edge Cities and the Viability of Metropolitan Economies: Contributions to Flexibility and External Linkages by New Urban Service Environments

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Edge Cities and the Viability of Metropolitan Economies: Contributions to Flexibility and External Linkages by New Urban Service Environments

Article excerpt

YOSRA A. MCKEE [*]

ABSTRACT. Economists have had little to say concerning the impact of Edge Cities in metropolitan complexes, much less about how they relate to the economy in general. The present paper is aimed at those concerns. It begins with a general overview of the Edge City concept as put forward by Joel Garreau. Following that it discusses metropolitan change in a pre-Edge City format. It then considers Edge Cities in the context of growth poles and discusses their role in providing economic linkages that facilitate change. The intent is to provide a better understanding of the impact of Edge Cities upon host metropolitan areas and the economy at large.

I

A Preliminary Overview

THE EDGE CITY CONCEPT which was put forward by Joel Garreau (1991) offers new insights into forms of urban expansion in and around major metropolitan complexes in the United States. It may hold similar relevance to the understanding of expansion in the metropolitan areas of other advanced nations. Beyond metropolitan expansion per se this concept seems to signal the linkages which impacted areas may have to national economies and beyond. Indeed it appears as though Garreau may have contributed an idea that will aid in the understanding of how various major corporate players are contributing ongoing strength and viability to urban and regional subsets of national economies and to those national economies themselves.

Garreau listed five parameters which demarcate his concept. First of all he saw the Edge City as containing a minimum of five million square feet of leasable office space. In addition to that he saw such configurations as holding at least six hundred thousand square feet of retail space. The centers in question were seen primarily as work locations with populations which expanded during work days, rather than as residential suburbs. Edge Cities would be perceived locally as a single end destination for mixed use-jobs, shopping and entertainment (1991, p. 425). Finally, Garreau saw Edge City sites as having been predominantly rural or residential as little as thirty years ago (p. 425).

It seems as though the Edge City as described by Garreau is related to the emergence of the United States as a service economy. Today seven out of ten new employment opportunities are service-oriented (McKee 1988, p. 15). Service industries are growing in size and importance in the national economy and many services are housed in urban settings. Beyond service industries themselves many positions within manufacturing concerns are occupationally service-oriented.

Insofar as the Edge City as described by Garreau appears to house and nurture what have become leading service-oriented activities in the national economy, it may be an element that continues to link large metropolitan areas to that economy. In a strictly local context, Garreau's vision of millions of square feet of office space may appear to hold an overstated importance. However it appears to be the type of office space that emerges which infuses energy into the areas in question.

Although retailing is important in the Garreau schema, it is far less significant than the office component. Presumably the type of retail activity that is most significant in an Edge City context would be regional malls and shopping centers which service far broader clienteles than what the suburb or jurisdiction housing the retail facilities may boast. It appears unlikely that retail facilities in and of themselves can be expected to generate Edge Cities. However, considered in conjunction with the types of office concentrations described above, they can be expected to strengthen the local or regional impacts of Edge Cities.

The significance of Edge Cities in the national economy appears to be that they represent concentrations of the service pursuits which have become central in importance to that economy. In many cases these pursuits are the service aspects of the operations of major corporations which are not necessarily producing services as their outputs. …

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