Central Business District

The central business district (CBD) is that part of the city which contains the principal commercial streets and main public buildings. Throughout history the CBD has been characterized by a number of land use changes that include industrial, residential, commercial, administration, and consumption. These spatial and temporal changes have been used to support and reject a number of theories and delimitations of the CBD. However, in the wake of post war decentralization and the rising popularity of polycentric regions in both Europe and the US much of this work has itself come under criticism. The main thrust of the criticisms suggest that CBDs are now more likely to experience atrophy due to the frenetic rise of suburban lifestyles, capital flight, and edge cities in regions like Southern California. Notwithstanding, parallel developments like inner city regeneration suggest that CBDs are now at the heart of a more widespread back to the city movement that (re)promotes the attractiveness of city center living through gentrification, enchanting cultural districts, and an uber cool social scene.

The following entry will chart the ways in which the CBD has been used to make a number of theoretical contributions to human geography. This is evident from the definitional nuances and the various ways in which CBDs have evolved and subsequently been delimited. While CBD evolution takes on local morphological characteristics, the case of Boston shows how CBDs evolve internally and expand physically. This is complimented by a more general treatise of CBD evolution based on North American and Canadian cities. Various approaches to CBD delimitation are also discussed to demonstrate the importance of urban land rent and changes across the land use surface. The entry then finishes off by suggesting that retail decentralisation is one of the biggest threats to the future of the CBD. The case of the UK mirrors more general trends in Europe and the US and raises challenging issues for national planning and policy guidelines. The proliferation of regional malls is testament to the purported porosity of these guidelines that continue to galvanise various reactive urban renaissance initiatives encapsulated by the contemporary CBD.

Defining the Central Business District

Evolution of the CBD

Delimiting the CBD

The CBD and the Threat of Decentralization