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How and why did your metro's edge city, or other highrise clusters, whether in the city limits or in the suburbs, develop where it is?


Is it related to transportation? Did it grow around an interchange, or major intersection, or along a major road? Did it grow around a major train station or subway stop?

Is it related to industry? Did other companies gravitate towards a major employer? Did companies or factories gravitate towards a natural resource?

Is it another reason?
 

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Downtown Bellevue (outside Seattle) isn't in an obvious spot. It's along a freeway but not an interchange. There's no rail. It's set back from the waterfront. Only a very minor older main street dating to the mid-century horse farm days. Giant lake between it and Seattle proper, with no bridges until mid-century, and that's not direct at all.

I don't have details at hand...this will be impressions...

It's in our wealthy quadrant. Major surface streets/highways met there (Bel-Red Road and Bellevue Way). A small retail anchor was a huge driver as it kept expanding into today's Bellevue Square, our top suburban mall.

Zoning was key. I don't know the specifics, but our eastern suburbs didn't have a lot of space that welcomed higher-density development. Bellevue allowed highrises decades before most of our suburbs, which have only recently started to allow highrises in more cases. This kicked off a boom particularly in the early 1980s that was mostly urban in format, with towers up to the street.

In the mid-1980s progressive planning changes made it substantially more urban. I think they reduced parking requirements and made mixed-use easier. They also started encouraging the 500x500' superblocks to be cut into pieces as projects got built.

In the last decade height limits were increased, hence what's becoming a flat top at 450'.

At some point it's momentum and creating your own gravity. Much of Downtown Bellevue's growth has been companies wanting to be on the Eastside and in an urban highrise location, and Bellevue is the only one of those.

It continues to grow quickly. A couple thousand more housing units so far in this boom. A few office towers. Some hotels. It's increasingly diverse, at 1/3 Asian. Rail will show up in five or six years. Bus transit is fairly popular aided by HOV lanes on I-405 etc. Upcoming projects keep getting bigger, including 13 towers in the three largest recent proposals. Some of that is awaiting an upzone.
 

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For MSP, it's really down to what areas, if any, you'd consider an "edge city". I'll use the "List of edge cities" wikipedia page to keep things simple for the Twin Cities. That gives us:


  • Bloomington
  • Eagan
  • Eden Prairie
  • Maple Grove
  • Minnetonka
  • Plymouth
  • Roseville
  • Uptown Minneapolis

The most common thing is that they act as a gateway into the beltway from several different directions, with the exceptions of Roseville and Uptown. And why is Uptown considered one? It's a part of the core city and is maybe 3 miles from Downtown, if that.

Roseville (34.9k) happens to have the oldest indoor shopping mall on the Saint Paul side of the metro in Rosedale Center (or, at least, I'm pretty sure it does), though it, too, is maybe 3 miles from both downtown cores, Both 35W and 35E pass through Roseville as does MN-36, which is a limited access highway that runs east to west through Roseville and crosses the 494/694 beltway at its NE corner. Roseville is a first-ring suburb. A handful of major N-S streets in Saint Paul also pass through Roseville (Snelling and Rice come to mind).

Bloomington (86.3k) was one of the first suburbs to get its interstate networks completed, has the airport, and hosted the arenas of the 3 pro teams during the 1960s and 1970s. It's also where 35W crosses the 494/694 beltway, and 3 non-interstate limited access highways meet 494 in its borders: US 169, MN 100, and MN 77. Bloomington is a first ring suburb in its development timing, but arguably a second ring suburb in its distance from the core. Major and minor shopping centers are spread throughout Bloomington or are in neighboring communities just across city lines. It's also the largest suburb by population and is a princity

Eagan (65.4k) is a later developing suburb in the south metro, probably what could be considered a part of the second ring. It's a suburb that MN 77 passes through as well as the suburb that contains the 494/35E interchange (which was built in the 1980s). It was one of the first large suburbs to spring up in the Saint Paul half of the metro, which has historically been the slower growing side of the metro, likely due to the relatively low number of limited access highways and interstates through it as well as the interstates being built much later than they were in the west metro. Eagan has a pair of major shopping centers at its center and some smaller ones throughout.

Eden Prairie (62.6k) is a newer one. It sits at the SW corner of the 494/694 beltway and US 212 passes through it from the NE corner at 169 & MN 62 to the midpoint of its western border. Most of its jobs are concentrated around where US 212 and 494 meet, while most of the rest of the community is a bedroom community.

Maple Grove (65.4k) is roughly in the same ring as Eden Prairie, though it has a more major interchange in its borders. That interchange is I-94 coming from the NW and following I-694 east toward the Mississippi, as well as I-494 heading south from that interchange. There is also US 169 on its eastern border, and MN 610 is a bypass highway that is being built to run from I-94 to US 10 in the northern suburbs. It acts as a job center for all of the sprawling suburbs and the satellite city of Saint Cloud and for several other north metro cities.

Minnetonka (51.3k) is one of the wealthiest suburbs in the region, but acts as an edge city because of the Carlson Group and Cargill both operating out of it along with a major west metro mall in Ridgedale Center. MN 7 and US 12 both cross 494 inside its borders as well on their way into the Cities from points further west on the north and south and west sides of Lake Minnetonka. It actually is directly north of Eden Prairie.

Plymouth (73.9k) is another large west metro suburb, actually sandwiched between Minnetonka and Maple Grove along 494. MN 55 passes through here from points westward on its way to Downtown. There are some major job centers here, but I'm not familiar with them as I rarely am there.


I'm not sure why whomever edited that Wiki article thought that the 6 suburbs that span from 35E west and north to I-94 ALL qualify as edge cities, though. I would have thought there'd be at least one in the north metro, like Blaine, though that's not really at a major interchange by any means right now.

TL;DR: Most of them are where they are because of major interchanges and interstates as well as several having shopping malls and having large populations for suburbs in the region, and they happen to be on the South and West sides due to the airport and ease of access to Minneapolis.
 

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Boston doesn't have edge cities in the traditional sense. Instead, there are a series of formally-independent cities which over time have bled into the Boston suburban orbit. Most of these cities are 350 or so years old and were their own employment and commerce centers long before being swallowed by Boston. The most prominent of these are:

Worcester
The Mill Cities on the Merrimack River: Lowell, Lawrence, Nashua NH, Manchester NH
Whaling Cites: New Bedford, Fall River

These cities all exist where they do because of either fast-moving rivers which powered the first mechanized factories in the US, or because of deep-water harborage for whaling ships.
 

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Tough one for Atlanta. There weren't many proper, traditional cities outside the metro area and the sprawl moved so quickly that it's basically one large morass of suburban development. Basically, the edge of metro Atlanta was as far out as people were willing to tolerate the commute until the next wave of office buildings and such allowed employment centers to locate further out. (Look at the road maps) Lather, rinse, repeat. There are no major physical obstacles, either, so it pretty much moved in all directions eventually.

If I had to pick I'd guess something like this:
Northeast - The city of Buford, just south of Lake Lanier and at the confluence of I-85 and 985. The largest hub in that direction and for a decade the growth was as much about moving upward (ie: density) as it was outward.

Northwest - Marietta and Kennesaw were the civic and cultural anchors just south of Lake Allatoona. Marietta was inside the metro area but it was THE center of activity and wealth within Cobb County.

East and West - Douglasville and Conyers, respectively, were the largest communities in each direction, and each representing the largest economic center on Atlanta's wings along I-20. Nothing particular of note other than that as suburban development started in the north and then swung downward these cities served as the outermost point where folks would live but still consider themselves Atlantans.

South - Fayetteville & McDonough. It's since reached down to Griffin but for the longest time these two places had the lion's share of residential and commercial development for the area. South of them was considered rural and because of the roads it was tougher to commute inward from these points. Hartsfield Airport, on the south side of Atlanta, proved a large anchor but also an obstacle for both traffic and luring upscale development.
 
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