‘Edge Cities’ Set to Move to Forefront

At first glance, it may appear that the country’s largest cities will reap the biggest benefits under President-elect Barack Obama’s planned infrastructure initiatives, partially due to his connection to metropolitan areas like Chicago. But according to urban planner Douglas McCoach (pictured), vice president of planning and urban design for global design firm RTKL Associates Inc., perimeter suburban and exurban areas surrounding large U.S. cities–locations he describes as “edge cities”–may gain the most from new infrastructure funding.McCoach contends that suburban residents, with an eye on reducing lengthy commutes and enhancing sustainability and a sense of community, have expressed interest in transforming their neighborhoods into more compact areas by constructing town squares and mixed-use spaces and incorporating public transportation. Obama’s support of community and connectivity, McCoach maintains, provides a considerable opportunity for edge cities to evolve at a faster pace across the nation. “There is investment needed to improve America’s urban places; if we can invest in edge cities, then we’re going be able to touch a lot of people,” McCoach said. “Right now, [edge cities are] like monocultures–basically housing and shopping.”  He added that value is created with change. “If we start to say people are going to be able to work closer to where they live or people are going to be able to use other means to get to where they work, inherently there are opportunities. [Public transportation] has the advantage of making our cities and towns friendlier and more dynamic places.”Other areas that McCoach sees as key to the maturation of edge cities are the redevelopment of brownfield sites, many of which are waterfront sites, and the modernization of schools and public buildings.