What are edge cities?

Credit for popularizing the name "edge city" and for describing the phenomenon goes to the 1991 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier by Joel Garreau. According to the book's preface:

We Americans are going through the most radical change in a century in how we build our world, and most of us don't even know it. From coast to coast, every metropolis that is growing is doing so by sprouting strange new kinds of places: Edge Cities...Most of us now spend our entire lives in and around these Edge Cities, yet we barely recognize them for what they are. That's because they look nothing like the old downtowns; they meet none of our preconceptions of what constitutes a city. Our new Edge Cities are tied together not by locomotives and subways, but by freeways, jetways and jogging paths. Their characteristic monument is not a horse-mounted hero in the square, but an atrium shielding trees perpetually in leaf at the cores of our corporate headquarters, fitness centers, and shopping plazas...The wonder is that these places, these curious new urban cores, were villages or corn stubble just 30 years ago.

The definition

Garreau defines an edge city as any place that:

  • Has 5 million feet or more of leasable office spacethe workplace of the Information Age.
  • Has 600,000 square feet or more of leasable retail space.
  • Has a population that increases at 9 a.m. on workdaysmarking the location as primarily a work center, not a residential suburb.
  • Is perceived by the population as one placea destination for jobs, shopping or entertainment.
  • Was nothing like "city" as recently as 30 years ago.

Greater Cleveland edge cities

What are the edge cities around Cleveland? Garreau's book lists the I-271 and Chagrin Boulevard area as a full-blown edge city. The I-77 and Rockside Road area is listed as an emerging edge city. In addition, one should add the Great Northern area.


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