Edgeless Cities: Exploring the Elusive Metropolis

Brookings Institution Press
Free sample

Edgeless cities are a sprawling form of development that accounts for the bulk of office space found outside of downtowns. Every major metropolitan area has them: vast swaths of isolated buildings that are neither pedestrian friendly, nor easily accessible by public transit, and do not lend themselves to mixed use. While critics of urban sprawl tend to focus on the social impact of "edge cities"—developments that combine large-scale office parks with major retail and housing—edgeless cities, despite their ubiquity, are difficult to define or even locate. While they stay under the radar of critics, they represent a significant departure in the way American cities are built and are very likely the harbingers of a suburban future almost no one has anticipated. Edgeless Cities explores America's new metropolitan form by examining the growth and spatial structure of suburban office space across the nation. Inspired by Myron Orfield's groundbreaking Metropolitics (Brookings, 1997), Robert Lang uses data, illustrations, maps, and photos to delineate between two types of suburban office development—bounded and edgeless. The book covers the evolving geography of rental office space in thirteen of the country's largest markets, which together contain more than 2.6 billion square feet of office space and 26,000 buildings: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington. Lang discusses how edgeless cities differ from traditional office areas. He also provides an overview of national, regional, and metropolitan office markets, covers ways to map and measure them, and discusses the challenges urban policymakers and practitioners will face as this new suburban form continues to spread. Until now, edgeless cities have been the unstudied phenomena of the new metropolis. Lang's conceptual approach reframes the current thinking on suburban sprawl and provides a valuable resource for future policy discussions surrounding smart growth issues.
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About the author

Robert E. Lang is co director of the Metropolitan Institute and a professor in the Urban Affairs and Planning graduate program at Virginia Tech.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Feb 25, 2003
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Pages
154
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ISBN
9780815796008
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Urban & Regional
Political Science / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A glance at a list of America's fastest growing "cities" reveals quite a surprise: most are really overgrown suburbs. Places such as Anaheim, California, Coral Springs, Florida, Naperville, Illinois, North Las Vegas, Nevada, and Plano, Texas, have swelled to big-city size with few people really noticing—including many of their ten million residents. These "boomburbs" are large, rapidly growing, incorporated communities of more than 100,000 residents that are not the biggest city in their region. Here, Robert E. Lang and Jennifer B. LeFurgy explain who lives in them, what they look like, how they are governed, and why their rise calls into question the definition of urban.

Located in over twenty-five major metro areas throughout the United States, numerous boomburbs have doubled, tripled, even quadrupled in size between census reports. Some are now more populated than traditional big cities. The population of the biggest boomburb—Mesa, Arizona—recently surpassed that of Minneapolis and Miami.

Typically large and sprawling, boomburbs are "accidental cities," but not because they lack planning. Many are made up of master-planned communities that have grown into one another. Few anticipated becoming big cities and unintentionally arrived at their status. Although boomburbs possess elements found in cities such as housing, retailing, offices, and entertainment, they lack large downtowns. But they can contain high-profile industries and entertainment venues: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Arizona Cardinals are among over a dozen major-league sports teams who play in the boomburbs.

Urban in fact but not in feel, these drive-by cities of highways, office parks, and shopping malls are much more horizontally built and less pedestrian friendly than most older suburbs. And, contrary to common perceptions of suburbia, they are not rich and elitist. Poverty is often seen in boomburb communities of small single-family homes, neighborhoods that once represented the American dream.

Boomburbs are a quintessential American landscape, embodying much of the nation's complexity, expansiveness, and ambiguity. This fascinating look at the often contradictory world of boomburbs examines why America's suburbs are thriving and how they are shaping the lives of millions of residents.


Most Americans today do not live in discrete cities and towns, but rather in an aggregation of cities and suburbs that forms one basic economic, multi-cultural, environmental and civic entity. These "regional cities” have the potential to significantly improve the quality of our lives--to provide interconnected and diverse economic centers, transportation choices, and a variety of human-scale communities. In The Regional City, two of the most innovative thinkers in the field of land use planning and design offer a detailed look at this new metropolitan form and explain how regional-scale planning and design can help direct growth wisely and reverse current trends in land use. The authors:•discuss the nature and underpinnings of this new metropolitan form
•present their view of the policies and physical design principles required for metropolitan areas to transform themselves into regional cities
•document the combination of physical design and social and economic policies that are being used across the country
•consider the main factors that are shaping metropolitan regions today, including the maturation of sprawling suburbs and the renewal of urban neighborhoods
Featuring full-color graphics and in-depth case studies, The Regional City offers a thorough examination of the concept of regional planning along with examples of successful initiatives from around the country. It will be must reading for planners, architects, landscape architects, local officials, real estate developers, community development professionals, and for students in architecture, urban planning, and policy.
The early returns from Census 2000 data show that the United States continued to undergo dynamic changes in the 1990s, with cities and suburbs providing the locus of most of the volatility. Metropolitan areas are growing more diverse—especially with the influx of new immigrants—the population is aging, and the make-up of households is shifting. Singles and empty-nesters now surpass families with children in many suburbs. The contributors to this book review data on population, race and ethnicity, and household composition, provided by the Census's "short form," and attempt to respond to three simple queries: —Are cities coming back? —Are all suburbs growing? —Are cities and suburbs becoming more alike? Regional trends muddy the picture. Communities in the Northeast and Midwest are generally growing slowly, while those in the South and West are experiencing explosive growth ("Warm, dry places grew. Cold, wet places declined," note two authors). Some cities are robust, others are distressed. Some suburbs are bedroom communities, others are hot employment centers, while still others are deteriorating. And while some cities' cores may have been intensely developed, including those in the Northeast and Midwest, and seen population increases, the areas surrounding the cores may have declined significantly. Trends in population confirm an increasingly diverse population in both metropolitan and suburban areas with the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants and with majority populations of central cities for the first time being made up of minority groups. Census 2000 also reveals that the overall level of black-to-nonblack segregation has reached its lowest point since 1920, although high segregation remains in many areas. Redefining Urban and Suburban America explores these demographic trends and their complexities, along with their implications for the policies and politics shaping metropolitan America. The shifts discussed here have significant influence in demand for housing and schools, childcare and healthcare, as well as private goods and services. Contributors include: Alan Berube (Brookings Institution); Benjamin Forman(Massachusetts Institute of Technology); William H. Frey (University of Michigan, Milken Institute); Edward L. Glaeser (Harvard University); John R. Logan (University at Albany, State University of New York), William H. Lucy (University of Virginia); David L. Phillips (University of Virginia); Jesse M. Shapiro (Harvard University), Patrick A. Simmons (Fannie Mae Foundationa); Audrey Singer (Brookings Institution); Rebecca R. Sohmer (Fannie Mae Foundation); Roberto Suro (Pew Hispanic Center); Jacob L. Vigdor (Duke University. Brookings Metro Series
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