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Old 07-24-2014, 08:18 AM
 
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I don't consider any of those Detroit suburbs true cities. They would not exist as they do, if not for the flight from Detroit. They don't exist without Detroit, they are part of the larger city. I wouldn't be suprised to see more of Detroits bigger companies located in the suburbs to start relocating back to the city. If Ford ever moved from their Ugly/Tacky 1950's modernist box back to Detroit would you still consider Dearborn a city?
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Old 07-24-2014, 11:49 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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How about Pontiac or Birmingham? Or Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor?
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:15 PM
 
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Something to consider is that there is a traditional old model of a metropolitan area, in which a city is surrounded by bedroom suburbs whose residents work in the city, and likely also go to the city for a lot of their shopping and entertainment. That model is long gone, at least in large metro areas. Large metropolitan areas now are, and actually have been for decades, vast interconnected webs, with significant economic nodes scattered all through the suburbs, and commuting that crisscrosses the entire metro in various directions. For many suburbanites it's only infrequently that they ever set foot in the city.

One question is whether major economic centers in the suburbs can be considered cities. In part, this may depend on whether one feels that a place must have the traditional appearance of a city, with a densely constructed downtown, in order to truly be a city. This can get complicated.

I live in the suburbs west of Boston, in a town which shares an edge city economic center with an adjacent town. The two towns together combine for a population of about 100k. That edge city area is a significant commuting destination. I've tried to picture all of the area's malls, strip malls, office parks, warehouse stores, suburban hotels, and major tech centers compressed into a traditional downtown, and I picture the downtown of a solidly mid-sized city, or at least a larger small city. However, this is not a traditional downtown. It's a completely edge city kind of place, with feeder roads and asphalt prairie expanses of parking lots. By some standards this automatically means that these towns are large suburbs, not cities.

When you look at the smaller economic centers within these towns, it continues to be a bit tricky to decide whether these are two cities. Both still have their old downtowns, dating back to before the edge city area developed. One downtown has gotten shabby, but it still looks like a downtwon. The other downtown is nice and attractive, with cozy eateries and quirky little shops.

Neither downtown has much in the way of businesses that serve everyday needs. Most of the grocery stores, banks, drugstores, hairstyling places, etc., are located in small commercial zones scattered throughout the neighborhoods of both towns. Keep in mind, though, that many independent, non-suburban towns at present have downtowns that feature restaurants and specialty shops, with the more basic needs served by larger stores along main streets out some distance from downtown. These two towns west of Boston that share that edge city area simply follow a pattern that has become more or less the norm in decent-sized towns, whether they are suburbs or stand-alone towns.

In form, many would refuse to call these towns cities, even small cities, because the primary economic center they share has a very suburban form, rather than looking like a traditional downtown. But then, there are those two old downtown areas. Even the local commercial zones scattered through the neighborhoods vary in appearance. Some have a typically suburban-looking mix of small shopping centers and buildings with parking lots in front spread along main streets. Others look like small downtown areas.

Whether you consider these two towns suburbs or small cities depends on what you consider. In appearance, they are large suburban towns, though there are some local exceptions to this in the form of the two old downtown areas and the neighborhood commercial zones with the small downtown look. In terms of function, these towns combine to form what is essentially a single small city that forms the economic hub of, and is an important commuting destination for, one section of the Greater Boston area which effectively functions as a small metropolitan area within a large metro area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
If the municipality houses its own residents which participate in jobs in that municipality, it is a city. If it's all office space and depends on surrounding areas for workers, then regardless of the urbanity of that region, it is not a city (in this case it would be a commercial district instead, or maybe a company town).
Most likely, in the case of all municipalities--cities, independent towns, suburbs--that are significant local economic centers, there are people who both live and work there.

When it comes to depending on surrounding areas to supply the workers for a municipality's industries, it's worth keeping in mind that even the largest cities would not be anything close to as significant and busy as they are without workers from outside the city limits.

Looking again at the area where I live, the towns sharing the large edge city area are both bedroom communities for Boston and its metro area and at the same time a commuting destination. This gets back to what I said above about the intricate, web-like nature of modern metropolitan areas. It also once again means that it's difficult to define cities as either-or, either commuting destinations or bedroom communities that supply commuters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
Perhaps one more requirement for somewhere to be a city would be-does it generate the most wealth within its region? Is it the economic heart and the main driver behind the regional economy? If yes, then it is a city. If not, then no. For example, KoP generates wealth due to its mall; however, it does not generate the wealth that is spent at its mall, which means it is dependent on a higher source of wealth to be sustained, and is therefore not a city.
Look again at the area where I live. The towns sharing the large edge city area are both bedroom communities for Boston and its metro area and a commuting destination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
Cities must be at the top of the regional hierarchy of productivity. This definition is just an idea though-I wouldn't consider it set in stone as there's probably a lot of flaws.
One possible flaw that I see is that by this definition of a city I don't see the reason for the question you pose in this thread's title. If you define a city as the dominant economic center in its local region, then by this definition suburbs cannot be cities. With this definition you have answered your question and eliminated the need to discuss the question. Thread finished. That is, if you stick with this definition.
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:50 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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If we go into the economic definition of city, I think it should be a place of innovation and have head offices. In Toronto, a lot of industry gets pushed out to the other suburbs since space is cheaper there. However, the most valuable office space is mostly concentrated in Downtown Toronto. There are a few office parks, but even the biggest ones have I think at most 5-10% as many workers as Downtown. The majority of the best paying jobs are downtown, and there's a very close correlation between high income neighbourhoods in Toronto and neighbourhoods with high proportions of residents working in Downtown Toronto.

Other indicators include things like land values, which are higher the closer you are to Downtown Toronto and gradually decrease going further out with only minor little peaks in more desirable suburbs.

Going into less economic factors, walkability and density are also higher in and around Downtown Toronto than in most of the suburbs. I guess the other factor would be cultural institutions (maybe). Looking at Dearborn vs Detroit, Dearborn has its own an economic base, and overall, density and walkability are about the same. Downtown/Midtown Detroit however... it has higher walkability, and a concentration of institutions that Dearborn lacks. I'm pretty sure that goes for Pontiac too though, that's why I asked if people consider it a suburb as well?
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Old 07-25-2014, 07:37 AM
 
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Pontiac is unique because it was settled in 1818 and predates suburbia by a good 130 years. It was one of the many GM manufacturing hubs. These days it is a suburb. It does have it's own city center, but it has suffered the same decentralization that has befallen all of Michigan's industrial centers. I have my stance on suburbs, that they are just organized outlays of a greater enclave. But there are definite cases where the "suburb" predates the metropolitan region.

The Detroit area suburbs IMO are a unique case compared with most metropolitan regions. Detroit didn't just suffer population flight, it's entire tax structure from businesses down to large corporations vacated the city limits for the more stable suburbs. Doing so it gave the suburban governments as much clout and power as the core city. The region has been in a political war for decades with the suburbs doing everything they can to distance themselves from the reputation of Detroit. This has further crippled the city in it's efforts to stabalize itself as the fractured regionalism has left the area largely without identity. There are now more than a few center cores in the area, Troy, Southfield, Dearborn, Pontiac, smaller centers like Birmingham, and Mt Clemens.

All of these cities owe their size and wealth to the White Flight and decentralization from the 1950's onward. None of them would exist in their current states without it. They are cities with their own governments, but that's by default. They don't exist without the larger urban area, there is not start or end to the urban development aside from the invisible lines created by Michigan laws of civic incorporation. They are all one city.
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Old 07-25-2014, 09:05 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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If Paradise, NV incorporated a city instead of being an unincorporated community, could it be considered a city? It's home to most of the Strip, with the rest being in Winchester.

Phoenix has a pretty weak downtown too, maybe Mesa or Tempe could be considered legitimate cities (even if largely auto-oriented)?

Re: Detroit. So you're saying the city is Metro Detroit, and the Detroit proper is not? I mean the city of Detroit is arguably dependent on its suburbs for providing a place for its downtown workers and patrons to its institutions to live. Even though the history of the Detroit suburbs' formation is tied to the city of Detroit, now that they do exist, how dependent is their continued existence on Detroit? Especially if we're talking about the suburbs in aggregate rather than any one particular suburb.
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Old 07-25-2014, 11:06 AM
 
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I say city and suburbs are synonymous no matter what city. From any point development starts, until it ends, anything contiguous. The only thing that distinguishes them are the invisible lines that make up borders and administrative divisions. I don't think it matters how many concentrated cores are in any urban area, they are all part of the same city.
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Old 07-25-2014, 11:19 AM
B87
 
Location: Norwich, UK
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Croydon applied to for city status a few years ago but the bid was rejected. Croydon is a suburb and borough in south London.
London Borough of Croydon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



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Old 07-27-2014, 08:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
If Paradise, NV incorporated a city instead of being an unincorporated community, could it be considered a city? It's home to most of the Strip, with the rest being in Winchester.

Phoenix has a pretty weak downtown too, maybe Mesa or Tempe could be considered legitimate cities (even if largely auto-oriented)?

Re: Detroit. So you're saying the city is Metro Detroit, and the Detroit proper is not? I mean the city of Detroit is arguably dependent on its suburbs for providing a place for its downtown workers and patrons to its institutions to live. Even though the history of the Detroit suburbs' formation is tied to the city of Detroit, now that they do exist, how dependent is their continued existence on Detroit? Especially if we're talking about the suburbs in aggregate rather than any one particular suburb.
I know pretty much nothing about Paradise NV, but I'd say that it could be considered independent if it could operate independently as a community. It seems that the community is centered entirely on The Strip, though, so it doesn't look like it could be considered independent as of now.

And Mesa and Tempe could both be considered independent cities, sure. If they operate independently or interdependently with Phoenix and/or are capable of supporting themselves, and are centrallized to some degree, then they are cities.

As for Detroit, the suburbs are dependent on Detroit for the jobs, commerce, location, and established name. If Detroit disappeared tomorrow, the surrounding suburbs would utterly collapse as people would move elsewhere to find jobs. Conversely, if Detroit's suburbs disappeared, Detroit proper would probably suffer from the loss, but no more than it already has by its suburbs' negligence. In fact, I'd even argue that Detroit would prosper as people would move in to fill the jobs vacated by suburbanites.
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:44 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
I know pretty much nothing about Paradise NV, but I'd say that it could be considered independent if it could operate independently as a community. It seems that the community is centered entirely on The Strip, though, so it doesn't look like it could be considered independent as of now.
I'm not sure what you mean. I mean aren't the casinos and other attractions on The Strip are mostly being patronized by out-of-state tourists? I don't think it's like it's that dependent on patrons from Las Vegas. Every city has to have some kind of industry that brings in money from elsewhere unless it can avoid imports completely (not realistic). For Las Vegas, that seems to be mainly tourism related to The Strip. Detroit has automobiles, NYC has financial services, the Bay Area has the tech sector, Houston has energy and petrochemicals... And most of these cities aren't entirely dependent on a single industry that exports products/services and are diversified to varying degrees. Las Vegas doesn't seem too diversified, so that makes it vulnerable compared to cities like Chicago, Montreal or Philadelphia that seem pretty diversified. All cities are going to be dependent on other parts of the world though for exporting goods and services. And for Clark County, the biggest export seems to be providing a place for gambling and entertainment, with most of that being in Paradise. Downtown Las Vegas has some too, but I'm pretty sure it's less.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
And Mesa and Tempe could both be considered independent cities, sure. If they operate independently or interdependently with Phoenix and/or are capable of supporting themselves, and are centrallized to some degree, then they are cities.

As for Detroit, the suburbs are dependent on Detroit for the jobs, commerce, location, and established name. If Detroit disappeared tomorrow, the surrounding suburbs would utterly collapse as people would move elsewhere to find jobs. Conversely, if Detroit's suburbs disappeared, Detroit proper would probably suffer from the loss, but no more than it already has by its suburbs' negligence. In fact, I'd even argue that Detroit would prosper as people would move in to fill the jobs vacated by suburbanites.
So regarding this, I can agree with mljo that often cities and suburbs are dependent on each other. Detroit's suburbs have some pretty significant job centres though. In the early 20th century Detroit was definitely the major job centre of the region, but now it's less important. I think it's home to about 15% of Metro Detroit's jobs? Although the outer ring of suburbs has a lower job:worker ratio than the city of Detroit, I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio for the inner ring suburbs was similar or even higher. The other question is whether or not the businesses in Detroit would disappear along with the suburbanites they employed. I think there's a fair bit of Detroit residents commuting to blue collar jobs in the suburbs. And if Detroit disappeared, would the suburbanites be able to create new economic opportunities within the suburbs to replace the lost jobs.
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