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

20 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2010

See all articles by Richard Schragger

Richard Schragger

University of Virginia School of Law


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.

Suggested Citation

Schragger, Richard, Does Governance Matter? The Case of Business Improvement Districts and the Urban Resurgence. Drexel Law Review, Forthcoming; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2010-32; Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2010-14. Available at SSRN:

Richard Schragger (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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