Cities in the 21st Century


In the 1950s, Tysons Corner was a rural area of Fairfax County, VA. Today, it is the nation's 12th largest collection of commercial and office space, and the textbook example of “Edge City” suburban sprawl. Throughout its history, development in Tysons closely resembled Logan and Molotch's growth machine thesis. Over the past two years, a radically different future has been planned for Tysons with the arrival of the Dulles Metrorail and the drafting of a new Comprehensive Plan. This paper analyzes the new Comprehensive Plan through its series of drafts, public comments, and coverage in the media in order to situate it within the political economy of place framework. What allowed for such a dramatic shift in vision? Perhaps more critically, what role has the growth machine played in shaping this new vision? This case study demonstrates that even in (perhaps especially in) cases which represent major shifts in vison, the growth machine is likely to play a central role in shaping the extent and the boundaries of that vision. Furthermore, it examines the critical role that outside investment plays in revitalizing the growth machine, and positions the negotiation of these investments as spaces of engagement for both use and exchange value interests. In the end, this paper finds that in order to promote alternative visions for growth, one must become a knowledgable agent, capable of manipulating the development process.