new freeways, where new subdivisions, shopping strips, and office parks spring up. This isthe development zone that Katz (2001) refers to as the ‘‘the exit-ramp economy.’’ Or asJacobs (2004) would say, the boomburbs are developing as a series of ‘‘micro-destinations’’(e.g., scattered office parks) as opposed to ‘‘macro-destinations’’ (i.e., downtowns).
What are boomburbs?
When late 19th- and early 20th-century satellite cities reached a large scale, they developedas dense urban cores. But as boomburbs grow into big ‘‘cities,’’ most remain essentiallysuburban in character. Just as satellite cities reflected the dominant urban pattern of theirtime, boomburbs may be the ultimate symbol of the sprawling postwar metropolitan form.Simply put, boomburbs are large, fast-growing suburbs. Boomburbs are not traditionalcities nor are they bedroom communities for these cities. They are instead a new type of city, a subset of and a new variation of American suburbanization (Fishman 1990,Garreau 1991, Abbott 1995, Taylor and Lang 2004). More technically, boomburbs aredefined as cities of at least 50,000 people that are not the core of their region, and havingmaintained double-digit rates of population growth for each Census since 1970 (Lang andLeFurgy 2007). In total, 60 boomburbs exceeded 100,000 people by 2006, while 80contained between 50,000 and 100,000 residents.While boomburbs may be found throughout the nation, they occur mostly in theSouthwest in a belt of metropolitan areas stretching from Texas to the Pacific, with almosthalf in California alone. Even a relatively small western metropolis such as Las Vegascontains two boomburbs. The Las Vegas region also contains three Census DesignatedPlaces (or unincorporated places) that exceed 100,000 residents and would qualify asboomburbs were they incorporated (Lang and Dhavale 2003).Two key ingredients are needed to produce boomburbs – fast sustained developmentand big incorporated places. The West has both. The South, in general, is booming but hasmostly smaller incorporated places – and even many unincorporated places – that capturethis growth. The Northeast and Midwest have plenty of larger incorporated places, butmaintain a much slower growth rate than the South or West. Even most large and rapidlygrowing Sunbelt metropolitan areas east of the Mississippi, such as Atlanta and Charlotte,have few boomburbs. Thus, a region can boom and still wind up without many boomburbs.Boomburbs in regions such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Las Vegas are similar to theirnewer and less traditional Southwestern US central cities. Cities such as Glendale, nearPhoenix, and Garland, near Dallas, have comparable density and urban form to theirrespective core cities – except for missing a large downtown. Boomburbs in thesemetropolitan areas are an extension of the auto-dependent city building that hasdominated the spatial structure of many Sunbelt metropolitan areas.The Census Bureau is also loosening its concept of what constitutes a ‘‘city’’ (Frey
2004) in the metropolitan context and it recognizes that boomburbs are often principalplayers in their respective regions. Boomburbs even help name metropolitan areas – as in,for example, the ‘‘Phoenix, Mesa (boomburb), Scottsdale (boomburb) MetropolitanStatistical Area.’’ The reality that Mesa has over 400,000 residents and Scottsdale over200,000 people, along with several major employment centers, warrants recognition in thenaming of the Phoenix region.Boomburbs constitute a new city type that the US Census Bureau struggles tounderstand. In its 2003 redefinition of metropolitan America, the Census Bureaureformulated its municipal classification from the old ‘‘central city’’ concept to the new‘‘principal city’’ one (Frey
2004). In an analysis of the Census’s new categories, Lang,Blakely and Gough (2006) determined that redefining many suburban cities (mostlyboomburbs) added almost 13 million people to the principal city share of metropolitan78
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