Town Planning Review

Lessons from America: The role of Business Improvement Districts as an agent of urban regeneration

Town Planning Review (2003), 74, (3), 301–313.

Abstract

The government intends to bring out new legislation in 2004 to enable cities to set up Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). These were introduced in Canada in the 1970s but have been most commonly adopted in the USA during the 1980s and 1990s. There are wide variants in terms of scale, budget, role, power and mission, and so BIDs have the advantage of being easily tailored to fit local conditions. In essence they represent a voluntary tax that local businesses impose on themselves, administer themselves and spend themselves. The money is typically spent on combating crime, providing a clean, attractive environment and promoting the local economy of the neighbourhood. BIDs are primarily though not exclusively found in retail areas where businesses have a clear interest in improving the appearance and safety of an area. This paper highlights what can be learned from the American experience of BIDs in terms of scale, scope, strengths, weaknesses and lessons for the implementation of BIDs in the UK. The paper uses secondary research and is the result both of findings derived from American analysis of BIDs and from detailed reading of the websites of a cross section of BIDs across the USA.

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Author details

Symes, Martin

Steel, Mark