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Does Governance Matter? The Case of Business Improvement Districts and the Urban Resurgence


At the turn of the twenty-first century, the problem of urban economic development has elicited a kind of entrepreneurial, market-oriented response from city leaders. The driving assumption is that cities are competing with one another and with the suburbs for residents, firms, and consumers. According to many policymakers, cities can only compete with other places by creating a market-oriented environment that is responsive to both consumer and resident desires. Indeed, a central preoccupation of the turn-of-the-century city has been to provide particular consumption amenities to a highly mobile and increasingly demanding populace. In particular, cities have sought to attract individuals with high incomes and high levels of education. The argument has been repeatedly made that cities that create attractive and inviting areas in which to live, shop, eat, and recreate will win the competition for that demographic and will ultimately do better economically than cities that do not.