Edge City is an enigmatic term. It sounds like the setting of a futuristic dystopian science-fiction movie, full of steel monoliths and labyrinthine traffic interchanges and people who exist more as worker bees than citizens. I picture this place as more of a machine than a place to call home. Joel Garreau, the coiner of the phrase, gives it a very precise definition:

1. Has 5 million square feet of office space.

2. Has 600,000 feet of retail space.

3. Has more jobs than bedrooms.

4. Is perceived by the population as one place.

5. Was very recently urbanized. (pg 193)

The concept of the edge city stood out to me because even though it is so clearly defined, I cannot understand or envision it as clearly as an urban, suburban, or rural area. It is a synthesis of city and suburb that has recently become recognizable, and an idea has multiple aliases, e.g. suburban activity centers, suburban cores, urban villages, and pepperoni-pizza cities. Because the edge city is part of the present and future of planning, I’d like to find out more about it.

This study conducted in 1991 by the University of California Transportation Center on land uses and travel in suburban activity centers details the types of buildings in the areas studied. They contained “businesses involved with financial management, real estate brokering, engineering consulting, insurance services, and legal counseling.” Building occupancy ranged from one to 100 tenants with 20 being the average. Structures averaged 10 stories and overall “could be characterized as fairly dense, modern spec office buildings housing a predominantly professional workforce.”

In addition, “around 62% of employees were in professional or managerial positions and over 85% worked in desk jobs. Nearly 60% of employees interviewed were women. On average, employees were from households with 2.16 vehicles available, close to the national average.”