The edge city was first coined by Joel Garreau who was a Washington Post journalist. The edge city was defined as development that had more than 5 million square feet of leasable office space, at least 600,000 square feet of leasable retail space, and more daytime workers than night time residents. In Atlanta, two of the largest edge cities are the Cumberland Galleria area and the Perimeter Center. These areas are both very unique into there own way and provide great examples as to what Garreau was talking about in regards to how the every major city was growing multiple cores.
The Cumberland Edge City is the fifth largest business distinct in the state of Georgia, behind only Downtown Atlanta, Midtown Atlanta, Buckhead Atlanta, and Perimeter Center. Although the business district is only 5.5 square miles it provides over 65,000 full-time jobs and $21.2 billion to Georgia’s total economy, which is about 5 percent. The edge city did not really start developing until 1973, with the development of the Cumberland Mall. Today, the Cumberland edge city is anchored by three major structures, an office park called the Cumberland-Galleria (seen in picture 1), Cumberland Mall (seen in picture 2), and Cobb Galleria Center (seen in picture 2). The edge city is not just limited to these three structures though. Other high rises have been built all another the Cumberland area. These high rises seem to just rise out of the trees providing a unique symbolism of city meets suburbia (seen in picture 3).
Although, the Cumberland edge city is large, it is dwarfed by its neighbor, the Perimeter Center edge city. With over 29,000,000 square feet of office space, it is one of the largest edge cities in the nation. The most recognizable feature of Perimeter Center is the towers known as the King and Queen Towers (seen in picture 4). While the towers were built in the 1980s, the development of Perimeter Center began much sooner. The edge city got its first structure in the in the 1970s with the development of the Perimeter Mall. Once this mall was built, like the Cumberland-Galleria district, the development never really stop growing. Why is that?
Jon Teaford talks in his book The Metropolitan Revolution about a lot of the factors pertaining to the rapid growth of the edge city. One of the most significant reasons as to why the suburb office city grew so much was due to a number of women being added to the workplace. Women wanted to be closer to home, and because of that certain firms made that option available to them in hopes of attracting this new type of labor. Before jobs for women arrived by the masses, other institutions were put into place to make sure that women would be okay with moving out of the city. This can be seen very clearly with the first developments that started Perimeter Center and Cumberland-Galleria, the mall.
Gunther Barth writes in his book City People that the department store was a core institution in the city during the 19th century. He states that the department store, “validated the downtown district as the center for the flow of people as well as goods,” (Barth, 147). As people began to move away from the core of the city, it would only make sense for department stores to move away also. What were the Cumberland and Perimeter Malls anchored by: department stores. These malls gave validity to these new regions that families were moving too. It was not just a people migration; it was a commercial migration, and it is amazing how much more comfortable people can be migrating when they know they can buy their same goods in the new location as the old.
Another major reason edge cities grew so much was because of the transportation revolution that happened with cars. Once cars became affordable it only became natural for people to want to use them. These new edge cities have parking that the city could not provide for. Each building has massive parking garages attached to it. These different buildings are connected by wide parkways that are easy to drive on. Edge cities are designed specifically for the car and because of that people love them.
The final reason that could contribute to the success of the rapid growing edge cities of Cumberland-Galleria and Perimeter Center is through the CIDs that both districts have created. CID stands for Community Improvement District and it is where an additional property tax is taken on certain properties to improve the area around them. These areas came be much more forward thinking on different issues regarding their districts because of this additional revenue, which is now in the hundreds of millions. The best example of how these districts can be forward thinking in benefitting there community is by the recent desire to have more green space. These funds have allowed for much more green space and public transportation options around these edge cities. These advancements can be seen in the pictures below.
Not everything is perfect in these edge cities though. While these communities are designed for cars, it also makes these areas have massive parking lots and bad traffic. Traffic in Dunwoody, where Perimeter Center is located, and Cumberland, the location of Cumberland-Galleria, has some of the worst traffic in the region. While the CIDs and local governments are trying to combat some of these problems, it could be an issue that really slows down growth to these areas.
Another thing that hampers these districts is because parking lots take up so much space, roads are so large, and buildings are so spread out there can be a lack of community found in the edge cities that is found in the urban cities. Teaford shows that this isolationism is real by explaining that people from Dunwoody or Cumberland will still identify that Atlanta is where they are from, even though they have never lived in that actual city. He explains that people do this because those major core cities “defined where they were from,” more than their town can (Teaford 253). He also uses Census data to show an urban turnaround with people moving back into the cities, desiring more of a community found in the cities. Edge cities have seen these behavioral patterns and have tried to adjust to them by creating more town center, mixed-use shopping districts to combat this image of isolationism.
Edge cities have changed the dynamic of cities in massive ways. The city has gone from one central core to having several cores that can be across a large distance. These edge cities were created because of changes in transportation as well as other social changes, like women becoming a larger part of the workforce. The edge city became a hybrid of the city and suburbia. While these problems do exist and may threaten some future developments within edge cities, it is clear that these new kinds of cities have transformed the urban world.
Barth, G. (1980). City people: The rise of modern city culture in nineteenth-century america. (pp. 111-147). NewYork,NY: Oxford University Press.
Teaford, J. C. (2006). The metropolitan revolution, the rise of post-urban America. (pp. 190-195, 241-253). Columbia Univ Pr.
http://www.cumberlandcid.org/ – Accessed on November 15th
http://www.perimetercid.org/ – Accessed on November 15th