Edge City

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Edge City is a technical term in urban planning and social geography thatis intended to describea certain form of suburbanization . It was coined in 1991 by Joel Garreau in his book of the same name. The term describes large outer city centers that are multifunctional, i.e. have all the characteristics of an independent city, such as a wide range of jobs, shopping, leisure and residential facilities.

Joel Garreau defines the space of an Edge City as follows: Over 450,000 m 2 of office space , more than 55,000 m 2 of retail space . It serves primarily as a place of work for commuters, less as living space, so that there is a so-called commuter surplus . According to Garreau, the functional transformation of the space in a certain time is also very important for the definition of an edge city . After that, the space claimed by Edge City was about 30 to 40 years z. B. agricultural land.

This development can mean that there is more office space in an edge city than in the city center of the actual city. One example of this is Southfield near Detroit with office space of around 7 million m 2 . This means that Southfield has more office space than Detroit's Central Business District (CBD) .

Edge cities represent a kind of final product of a suburbanization process. This can lead to considerable disadvantages for the actual city centers, such as large vacancies in commercial space or the "extinction" of inner cities.

As reasons for the development, Garreau cited that with the suburbanization of the 1950s and 1960s, initially only residential buildings were settled in the suburbs. Jobs and retail remained in the city centers. With the American city center crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, when city centers fell into disrepair and the rise of the service professions, jobs also moved to the suburbs. With the significantly increasing number of women entering the labor market and the prevalence of the car as the predominant means of transport, parking spaces for cars that were not available in city centers were needed.


Garreau was the Washington Post's business editor at the time the book was published . He wrote the book, according to his own account, out of astonishment that real estate developers were building office buildings and retail spaces on a large scale in small towns that were up to 50 km away from major cities. He considered this development disastrous for the inner cities of the metropolises, which lost economic power, and for the small towns, whose character would change as a result. The book was a success, it spread and the eponymous term far beyond the circle of urban planners and local politicians to the general public.

The book and the definition of the Edge City are criticized because the author did not understand the processes and causes of suburbanization sufficiently. As early as the publication it was stated that Garreau would not take into account the political factors that have contributed massively to the suburbanization of living space and subsequently also of jobs. In the opinion of the critics, the political will to suburbanize is evident in the subsidization of cars, land use plans that made public transport such as trams impossible, and special public financing offers for single-family houses that were practically only aimed at whites of the middle class ( redlining ).

In 2003, urban studies professor Robert Lang wrote Edgeless Cities, an answer to Garreau's book. He stated that Garreau had misrepresented the development. The decisive change was not the large business districts in selected cities, but rather small sub-centers with 90,000 m² of usable space that have made up most of the new buildings since the 1980s. In addition, these would not be concentrated in a few small towns, but would arise at every motorway exit, in every settlement and also away from previous towns. Therefore Garreau's definition is doubtful and cannot describe the development.

In 2018, Garreau also described that development would have continued and that Edge City would no longer be the model of the future. Thanks to digitization and virtualization, people are increasingly able to work “from anywhere” and would therefore move to places where they would previously only have been on vacation. These would be small and medium-sized cities with culture and social commitment. He cites Santa Fe as an example . In particular, he does not believe in a resurgence of the inner cities - with the exception of a few metropolises on the American coasts, which are not typical for the entire country. In terms of space, the suburb would continue to be the attractive model.

But this representation also meets with criticism from urban planners. The big trend would be compression; especially in districts with public transport. The centers of development are not only the city centers, but above all sub-centers, including former suburbs, which are being rededicated from local public transport nodes. Retail and offices would be built within walking distance of upgraded residential areas.

A mediating position sees the concept of the Edge City as useful to describe certain developments and cities, but rejects its application to suburbs in general. An example of an actual Edge City is King of Prussia , Pennsylvania . There was and is a concentration that is taking massive jobs out of Philadelphia , just under 20 km away .


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Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Jake Blumgart: Return to Edge City . In: CityLab, April 10, 2018