Hazel A. Morrow-Jones*
Urban areas constantly change in all of their parts. The most obvious place where this change occurs is on the urban edge, and, especially in the US, that edge is always moving. Figure 1 illustrates the outward growth of metropolitan areas in the US state of Ohio between 1950 and 1990. The map shows the urbanized area associated with each city, not just the boundaries of the city itself. The urban areas shown have grown greatly in area over time, though many of them have not grown in population. US cities have become less dense, as well as larger in area since World War II.
Not only does the edge of US cities move outward overtime, but with major changes in the economic base of the cities, highway building, large construction projects, remainders of urban riots from the 1960s, redevelopment efforts and other events, interior portions of the cities change constantly as well. In fact, I argue that "the urban edge" means many things and could refer to any part of the urban area, not just the rural-urban interface.
In downtown Columbus, this broader definition of "edge" can be seen in many of the projects currently underway. For example, the new Center of Science and Industry (COSI) has taken an unused school building and the area immediately adjacent to it and has started to create a new museum district just west of downtown. A former brownfield along the Scioto River is being redeveloped as two high rise towers, one for expensive condominiums and the other for office space. The former Ohio Penitentiary has been demolished and its entire vicinity turned into a sports arena, arena district, park, parking and housing/retail/office complexes. These projects clearly ring downtown with one version of an urban "edge".
It is, of course, more common to think of the "edge" as literally on the geographic fringe of the urban setting, the growth areas shown in Figure 1. While jobs, shopping and highways are important aspects of the growth on the outside edge of the city, housing is a particularly important aspect of that growth. Of special importance in the American context is new development of single family housing communities for homeownership.
* City and Regional Planning, Geography and the Urban and Regional Analysis Initiative, The Ohio State University
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