Assesment of Centralized Urban Functions

Urban functions generally include government facilities at the city and county level. Where the city is a state capitol, state level government and central agency offices and facilities may be spread out through an urban area. Cultural centers include theaters, symphony halls, museums, and other halls of science, art, antiquities, and nature.

Regional disaster response offices and central county disaster response functions can be housed in centralized urban facilities.

Transportation hubs, such as train, airport, and regional transit have their administrative offices, transfer points and centralized maintenance facilities in or near the urban center.

Financial and banking central offices populate the “financial districts” of cities. Judicial regional, county, and state level functions and courtrooms are in urban centers. The associated law firms and legal businesses surround the banking and judicial centers.

For law enforcement systems, county jails, and other centralized law enforcement functions are in cities.

Regional, university and other medical centers were some of the the first major facilities to be built in urban areas. Over time, they have developed into huge operations, where some patients have to travel to them in order to get certain rare, or higher levels of care. Other major educational institutions, such as State and private universities and colleges are centralized to urban areas.

Major shopping, luxury shopping, and other specialty stores will concentrate in urban areas, especially in “down town” shopping districts. Discount outlets, manufacturers outlets may be in industrial zones of major cities. Cities have usually built up around ports of entry and trade along waterways, so they are also hubs of shipping and land transport of goods.

In assessing decentralization of urban functions, it is not hard to see how suburban agglomerations create the need for decentralized versions of everything, from shopping and government service centers, to cultural venues. Colleges and schools are built on land that is cheaper, or which may have been donated, and suburban medical centers upgrade their facilities and services to handle difficult or rare medical cases on their own.

The true test of urban decentralization is the amount of time, or number of times the residents of the suburban and more distant communities actually visit “the city” for their needs or for shopping, culture and fun. As suburban communities grow more self sufficient and independent, it is not unusual for people to avoid a city that may be so close that downtown is visible.

One of the causes of urban decentralization is the cost and difficulty of navigating complex urban streets and finding parking in order to enjoy culture or for services that are more easily accessed in the suburbs. Also, the cost of new construction is much lower in outlying areas, where plenty of infrastructure is built to support the staff who will work in the new facilities.

It is also becoming popular to decentralize or duplicate critical and essential financial, government, judicial and other facilities in case of attack or disaster that may decimate the close packed and confined area of cities.

While urban functions have decentralized to the extent that agencies which frequently service large numbers of people have built “satellite” operations, the urban centers will maintain their hold on the core functions which draw millions of suburban and regional visitors every year.