November 24, 2010
Schragger on Business Improvement Districts and the Urban Resurgence
Richard Schragger (Virginia) has posted Does Governance Matter? The Case of Business Improvement Districts and the Urban Resurgence, forthcoming in the Drexel Law Review. The abstract:
This Essay, written for a conference entitled “Business Improvement Districts and the Evolution of Urban Governance,” examines the relationship between innovations in urban governance and the recent urban resurgence. Whether business improvement districts (BIDs) have played a role in that resurgence is part of a larger inquiry about the causes of local economic growth and decline. This Essay begins by providing some background to the debate about BIDs, suggesting that BIDs have played a less significant role in urban governance than either proponents or detractors have sometimes asserted. It then makes some tentative efforts to describe the connections between BIDs and the urban resurgence in places like Philadelphia, arguing that those connections are not particularly robust. Finally, the Essay suggests caution when attempting to draw causal connections between governance and economic outcomes. It is not at all certain that good governance matters to local economic growth. Other factors may be more significant. If that is so, then the current competitive model of city growth and decline that seems to dominate thinking about urban law and policy is far too simplistic.
Fascinating! In addition to the original thesis, the article does a great job laying out the positive and negative stories of the BID. Since the early '90s, there have been two relevant phenomena: an upsurge in BIDs, and much progress in urban renewal. But is there a causal relationship? Anyone interested in revitalizing downtowns, urbanism generally, or the public-private debate should check it out.
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