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Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (Anchor Books) Paperback – September 1, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A thought-provoking account of the new urban centers that are developing on the edges of major metropolitan areas in the U.S.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Garreau's rather indifferently written tome, originally produced as a series of Washington Post articles, describes the phenomenon of Edge Cities that have sprung up in various areas of the nation, usually in close proximity to intersecting highways and urban areas. These entities are found in former rural or residential areas and contain office and retail space, a population that increases at 9 a.m. on working days, and a local perception of the Edge City as the final destination for mixed-use shopping, jobs, and entertainment. Garreau describes how developers, planners, politicians, and others have combined in such areas as Northern and Central New Jersey, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Phoenix, Southern California, and the San Francisco Bay region to erect these new entities. He also discusses such interesting trends as the newly emergent black upper middle class in the Atlanta environs and the neo-Civil War battle to preserve the Manassas battlefield site in Virginia from developers. For general collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/91.
-Norman Lederer, Thaddeus Stevens State Sch. of Technology, Lancaster, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Anchor Books
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385424345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385424349
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book explores what has become of the suburbs. Garreau's argues that certain suburbs have developed into a new kind of city, a city without a traditional downtown. He believes that such "edge cities", are the cities of the future. Garreau's criteria for an "edge city" are:

--5 million square feet or more of office space

--600,000 square feet or more of retail space

--more jobs than bedrooms

--perceived as one place by the population

--developed within the last 30 years

With these criteria in mind, Garreau sets off across the US to study our major edge cities. He explores edge cities in New Jersey, Texas, Southern California, and the areas around Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. In each area that he visits, Garreau takes up an edge city theme. For instance, in Detroit he discusses cars and the role they play in edge cities, and in Atlanta he discusses questions of race and class in edge cities.

At the end of the book is a list of US cities that qualified for edge city status in 1992. This is followed by a glossary of words used by edge city developers and a set of "laws" about how edge cities work. These "laws" are statistical observations about human behavior relevant for city planning, such as "the furthest distance an American will willing walk before getting into a car is 600 feet." Finally, there is an annotated list of suggested readings, endnotes, and an index.

Garreau is neither for nor against edge cities. He tries instead to understand how they work, and why they have popped up so rapidly across the country.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Vince Kenyon on March 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Explores the new environments arising at the junctions of interstate highways on the edges of major American metropolises. These developments supplemented suburbia first with retail and then with office buildings to become during the 1980s new centers of intensity rivaling or surpassing the old downtowns.

Through a succession of chapters, each nominally dedicated to a single metropolitan area, Mr. Garreau examines the edge city in its relation to some key issues in American society (transportation, race, quasi-governmental institutions, etc.) and then proceeds to investigate the edge city's compatibility with the traditional concepts of civilization, community, soul, and finally "hallowed ground."

An engaging and informative discussion of the forces shaping the new communities under construction throughout America. I recommend Edge City strongly to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of why we build the way we do.

My recent re-reading of Edge City was prompted by my first reading of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs. First published in 1961, Ms. Jacobs' work is now a classic that I wish I had read years earlier.

In a chapter entitled "Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles," Ms. Jacobs expresses extreme pessimism regarding the place of the automobile in a livable urban environment. She counsels deliberate "attrition" of automobiles as the only protection against "erosion" of the city by continual further accommodations to them. Her well reasoned analysis of the conflict between car and city left me convinced of the wisdom of her recommendations.

But I remembered vaguely that Mr.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Maddi Hausmann Sojourner on April 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This was the first book on cities and planning I ever read, and I was captivated through most of it. Filled with fascinating views on how real estate and commerce work together, this book ties together views of different metropoles as they develop their "Edge Cities," grown-up suburbs that are more than bedroom communities. These Edge Cities have overwhelmed the central city that gave birth to them, as suburbanites find them easier to commute to (at first), and certainly cleaner than the "real city." Gridlock and sprawl are the result as the Edge Cities go up everywhere.
And I still remember my eagerness in reading this terrific book, city after city, looking forward to the San Francisco chapter... and my crushing disappointment when Garreau discussed not Silicon Valley, the quintessential Edge City, but... Concord. Concord? How did he miss Silicon Valley, at the intersection of 85 and 280, or 101 and 880, or... (Garreau feels freeway junctions lead to Edge Cities)
Okay, other than my personal disappointment that he missed the real story, that the suburban metroplex is none other than San Jose/Santa Clara/Cupertino/Sunnyvale/Mountain View/Palo Alto/Redwood City this is still a great book. The endpapers show the contrast between Tyson's Corners postwar and in the nineties, and what a contrast it is.
This book goes well with "Suburban Nation," which shows how to avoid the downside of Edge Cities.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dick Bjornseth on April 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Joel Garreau is a good story teller about life on the new suburban frontier. His writing style reminds me of Jane Jacobs and her classic "Death and Life of Great American Cities." While Jacobs' book helped to modify the discourse on central city urban development with her praise of mixed uses, the value of sidewalks, and face to face encounters with your neighbors, Garreau likewise stakes out some ground counter to conventional planning wisdom about the suburbs.
As a former city planner, I found Garreau's discussion of the new "downtowns" that are forming up on the suburban fringe and along certain freeways to provide a refreshingly candid look. He is essentially optimistic about a phenomena that is almost universally condemed by the professional planning and architecture community.
The book's final two chapters are worth the price alone. In "The Words" chapter the author defines in lighthearted terms some of the slang that is associated with edge city development: "Ooh-ah: An unusual Amenity inserted in a development specifically to elicit an animated reaction from a client. Commmercial Ooh-ahs include built in hair dryers in the mens room" In the chapter titled "the Laws" and includes such tidbits as: "The number of blocks an American will walk in most downtowns: Three, maybe four."
Overall a very readable and important book. In fact I use it as a text for a college class titled "The Built Environment" By reveiwing and discussing the "terms", "laws" and the players in nine "edge cities" around the country, the author does an amazing job clarifying what drives this sort of development and where it leading the future of American cities into the 21rst century. Jareau is basically optimistic, despite the boring warnings planners who warn of the impending collapse of civilization unless we abide by their dictates.
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Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (Anchor Books)
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