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Reclaiming the European City and Lobbying for Privilege: Business Improvement Districts in Germany


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Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are an increasing global phenomenon. In diverse places, they are established and sought of as helpful means to improve urban places. BIDs are frequently seen as a showcase for new forms of globalizing urban policies. This paper contrasts and broadens the frequent examples from the United States and the United Kingdom with experiences from Germany. We argue that this presents not just another example of BIDs as a mode of global neoliberal urban governance in yet another country. Instead, our case study highlights the elasticity and resilience of said concept and the impact of local trajectories on the mobilization of modes of urban governance. Compared with other places, BIDs in Germany remain relatively weak in terms of financial power. Nonetheless, the case of Hamburg shows how they are made suitable for discourses and practices of a neoliberalized “European City.”
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Urban Affairs Review
2015, Vol. 51(1) 74 –98
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DOI: 10.1177/1078087414522391
Reclaiming the European
City and Lobbying for
Privilege: Business
Improvement Districts in
Boris Michel1 and Christian Stein2
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are an increasing global phenomenon.
In diverse places, they are established and sought of as helpful means to
improve urban places. BIDs are frequently seen as a showcase for new forms
of globalizing urban policies. This paper contrasts and broadens the frequent
examples from the United States and the United Kingdom with experiences
from Germany. We argue that this presents not just another example
of BIDs as a mode of global neoliberal urban governance in yet another
country. Instead, our case study highlights the elasticity and resilience of
said concept and the impact of local trajectories on the mobilization of
modes of urban governance. Compared with other places, BIDs in Germany
remain relatively weak in terms of financial power. Nonetheless, the case of
Hamburg shows how they are made suitable for discourses and practices of
a neoliberalized “European City.”
policy transfer, mobile urbanism, Business Improvement Districts, Hamburg
1Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany
2Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Corresponding Author:
Boris Michel, Institut für Geographie, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Kochstr. 4/4, D-91054
Erlangen, Germany.
522391UARXXX10.1177/1078087414522391Urban Affairs ReviewMichel and Stein
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Michel and Stein 75
In late 2010, the first Business Improvement District (BID) in German fed-
eral state of North Rhine-Westphalia was initiated after a successful ballot.
This took place in small town, Haltern am See, at the northern fringe of Ruhr,
the former industrial backbone of West Germany. Not known for urban decay
or in fact anything like urbanity, Haltern am See—until 2001 known as
Haltern, but in the wake of an increasing focus on tourism, the name was
changed to indicate the city’s location at the shore of a picturesque lake—is
not exactly the place one would expect BIDs to emerge. But this emergence
of BIDs at the periphery of Germany’s largest federal state poses some ques-
tions about the state and role and potential of BIDs in Germany.
BIDs are an increasingly global phenomenon. In a wide range of places,
they are established and sought as a helpful means to improve more or less
urban places. In recent years, BIDs are often seen as a showcase for what
Peck and Theodore (2010) called mobilized policies and for new forms of
globalizing neoliberal urban governance (Cook 2008; Cook and Ward 2012;
Hoyt 2008; Peyroux, Pütz, and Glasze 2012; Ward 2006, 2007, 2011). It is
their proclaimed ability to deal with highly divergent local conditions and
urban places that contributes to their popularity within policy discourses in
very different urban and national settings.
While most of the existing literature focuses on the United States, the
United Kingdom, and South Africa, we want to contrast and broaden these
experiences with an example from Germany, where BIDs are in place since
2005. We argue that this is not just another example of BIDs as a mode of
global neoliberal urban governance in yet another country. Instead, it can be
seen as a case that highlights the elasticity and resilience of the concept of
BIDs and underlines the importance of local trajectories on the mobilization
and localization of modes of urban governance. BIDs are a revealing case to
demonstrate what Brenner, Peck, and Theodore (2010) called variegation of
neoliberalism in different places and times. Or as Didier, Morange, and
Peyroux (2012) wrote,
As tools embedded within local contexts and temporalities, [BIDs] undergo
complex path-dependent adaptive processes that need to be unpacked at several
levels . . . so as to give a fuller account of both the flexibility and resilience of
neoliberalism. (p. 120)
So far, there is not much of an academic discourse on BIDs in Germany.
There are some studies on legal issues and some within economic sciences
and urban planning (Binger 2010; Hecker 2010; Rettig 2008). But there is
scarcely anything on BIDs from the perspective of geography or urban
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76 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
studies (notable exceptions are Eick 2012; Pütz 2008; Töpfer, Eick, and
Sambale 2007; Vollmer 2011). In the following chapters, we try to bring
some evidence that derives from a comparative research project on trajecto-
ries of local implementations of BIDs in several different national and
regional contexts. We argue that our case study from the City of Hamburg
provides a glimpse at the specific and contradictory way in which the seem-
ingly neoliberal model of a BID is made suitable for discourses and practices
of an “European City” in a context that in terms of the varieties of capitalism
approach would be called a “coordinated market society.” While compared
with places like the United States or South Africa, BIDs remain relatively
small in their size, scope, and resources. We argue that BIDs in Hamburg
became a powerful lobbying tool for property owners and business interests.
As they are legally authorized to get easy access to public decision-making
processes, they become important voices that are seen as representing their
respective place.
After introductory remarks on research design and literature on BIDs, we
examine the development and current state of BIDs in Germany. In the main
part of this paper, we focus on the City of Hamburg. It is here, where the first
BID in Germany was established, and so far, the city remains one of the very
few cities in Germany where BIDs play a significant role. While Hamburg is
often regarded by BID advocates as a model and prototype for BIDs in
Germany, it becomes clear that the case of Hamburg depends on a rather
exceptional assemblage of local agents, networks, and policies.
Research Design
This paper derives from a research project on the globalization of BIDs in
cities beyond North America and the United Kingdom.1 This project tries to
understand these mobilized policies by a twofold methodology. With a dis-
course analytical approach, we examine the local contextualization of BIDs.
To understand the way in which BIDs are articulated on a local level, we
analyze the public discourse as produced in newspapers and in strategic pub-
lications by BID advocates and policy makers. This helps to shed light on the
way BIDs are articulated within existing discourses as well as on how BID
advocates explicitly link BIDs to a broader network of discourses on urban
issues (Michel 2013a). On the basis of a more actor- and agency-centered
research of events and local assemblages, such as international conferences,
international networks of experts and expertise, and local urban policy
regimes, we try to understand the actual processes of knowledge transfer and
the construction of an epistemic community (Larner and Le Heron 2002) of
BID advocates and lobbyists.
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Michel and Stein 77
Our research draws on recent debates on mobile policies. Much of this
literature sees an increasing importance of mobilizing policies as part of new
forms of competition between places and an increasing pressure upon policy
makers to constantly optimize policies according to those paradigms that are
presented as international best practices (McCann 2004; Peck 2010; Peck and
Theodore 2010). Most of the work is in some way framed by a notion of
neoliberal and entrepreneurial urbanism, understood as a fragmented, multi-
scalar and often contested process of restructuring the relations between
state, capital, and civil society (Brenner, Peck, and Theodore 2010; Brenner
and Theodore 2002; Harvey 2007; Künkel and Mayer 2011; Peck and Tickell
2002). These debates on mobile policies try to overcome shortcomings of
older concepts of policy transfer by highlighting the complex reworking of
mobilized policies on their way as well as on the ground (González 2011;
McCann 2011; McCann and Ward 2011, 2012; Peck 2011; Peck and Theodore
2010). Drawing on a language of mobility and fluidity, these works highlight
that policies do not just move from A to B but are always embedded within
complex and power-laden circulations of knowledge, which are intrinsically
political. These approaches can be characterized by their rejection of ratio-
nalist explanations and a focus on the contested nature of transfer.
Furthermore, policies seldom travel as complete packages but “move in bits
and pieces,” picked and changed to be made suitable for local contexts and
interests of different actors (McCann and Ward 2012; Peck and Theodore
2010; Robinson 2011). Thus—and as the case study from Hamburg will
show—policies are constantly reassembled and rearticulated in complex and
often contradictory ways by a wide range of local and global agents.
In this paper, we draw on research in Hamburg. Since 2010, we conducted
semi-structured interviews with a wide range of local BID managers from
large- to small-sized BIDs, the federal state government, local administrations,
and advocates (chamber of commerce, developers, involved business people)
as well as more ethnographic research at events like local and international
conferences of BID practitioners, such as the annual German BID Congress, a
conference within the framework of an EU Interreg program on how to “make
places profitable,” or the International Downtown Association’s World
Congress in London 2010. In addition, we undertook a discourse analysis of the
documentations of debates within the city council and the local media dis-
course (the largest daily newspapers in Hamburg and local sections of nation-
wide newspapers) and a number of publications from BID lobbyists.
Introducing BIDs
A BID is a spatially defined subdivision of a city in which property owners
commit themselves to pay an additional tax, a fee, or duty based on property
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78 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
values. The revenues generated are reserved to fund services and improve-
ments within the district that are agreed on by those who pay for the levy
(Briffault 1999; Houstoun 2003). BIDs are “privately directed and publicly
sanctioned organizations that supplement public services within geographi-
cally defined boundaries by generating multiyear revenue through a compul-
sory assessment on local property owners and/or businesses” (Hoyt and
Gopal-Agge 2007, p. 946). In many cases, BIDs are temporally limited and
have to undergo a renewal process after a predetermined period of time.
While there is a longer history of business and property owner associations
in many countries, BIDs differ from most other models of city management.
Once they are established, they are compulsory for all property owners or
businesses in the given area and time. This, it is argued, helps to get rid of
the problem of freeriders known to voluntary associations, where those who
do not participate in the funding of improvements nonetheless benefit from
The services and improvements paid for by the BID differ greatly between
BIDs and national contexts but in most cases focus on some services around
issues of sanitation, marketing, security, and sometimes of physical improve-
ments, all aiming at raising property values. Thus, BIDs are perceived as
innovative as well as effective strategies of solving public issues (such as
“crime & grime,” unattractiveness of public space or the flight of capital from
urban areas) by private-sector means. They deliver a highly adaptable small-
scale management of urban spaces on the basis of the interests of property
owners and businesses and to some degree substitute former public tasks.
The concept emerged in Canada in the late 1960s, when—so the story
goes—a Toronto businessman organized local property owners to form an
association and to invest collectively in improving the area surrounding their
properties. From Canada, where the concept was rapidly being implemented
in a number of cities and provinces, it moved to the United States in the mid-
1970s. Here it became popularized in the 1980s and 1990s. BIDs became an
issue for social sciences in the mid-1990s. They increasingly were seen as a
vital part of a broader shift toward a neoliberal and more excluding mode of
urban governance. So it does not come as a surprise that the one place that
became the most visible and influential showcase for BIDs was the place that
also became the global showcase for a new mode of urban governance: New
York City. The case of New York very much dominated the discourse on
BIDs throughout the 1990s. Both Giuliani’s Zero Tolerance and BIDs are
frequently quoted to be the prime reasons for the city’s acclaimed renaissance
(Kelling 2009; Walsh 2006)—or rather for the emergence of the revanchist
city (Katz 2001; Smith 2002; Zukin 2010). While the former dominated
within the field of policy making,2 the latter perspective dominated critical
social sciences.
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Michel and Stein 79
From the German perspective at first glance, BIDs seem to be just another
aspect of the privatized American City that is frequently constructed as the
antipode to the idea (or ideology) of the “European City,” that is, a historical
and dense city of civic emancipation and public space. Siebel (2004), one of
the key representatives of the German strand of New Urban Sociology,
argued that the “European City,” is characterized by its history of (bourgeois)
emancipation, public space, and social diversity. While, however, there are a
number of similarities between this ideal European City and those neo-urban
spaces that BIDs often take credit for, more often than not, BIDs are seen as
agents of a privatization of public space, increasing uneven development
through micromanagement of an increasingly splintered urban space and a
viable means of excluding the “superfluous” from view of urban middle-
class consumers. Thus, they can be seen as a showcase for policies of neolib-
eral urbanism. But as we will see, BID advocates in Hamburg manage to
align the concept of BIDs to this idea of the European City and argue that
BIDs are safeguards of public space rather than jeopardizing it.
Since the late 1990s, there is a growing debate about the global transfer of
BIDs, highlighting that BIDs are not limited to the political and urban context
of North America. After crossing the Atlantic in the late 1990s to govern the
post-apartheid city in South Africa (Hoyt 2008; Peyroux 2006), BIDs were
introduced to the United Kingdom during New Labour and a couple of years
later to some German federal states. With these transfers, the state (national,
federal, or local) for the first time became a driving force behind BIDs. New
Labour, for example, saw them as a key instrument for its ambitious urban
revitalization policies. Thus, the state was heavily involved in promoting
BIDs as a mode of privatized urban governance (Cook 2008). In a similar
way, there was strong support by some federal states in Germany and a num-
ber of key players such as the German Chamber of Commerce.
The State of BIDs in Germany
Before the introduction of neoliberal rationalities, urban planning in
Germany—it is frequently argued—was an exclusive public task (Eick 2012).
There was hardly a tradition of private urban governance comparable to
North American cities. In addition, private developers and stakeholders in
general are weaker than in North America—both in economic as well as in
political terms. From this point of view, the introduction of BIDs has been
seen as an expression of a decisive shift in urban governance toward the
inclusion of private actors into policy formation in German cities at the cost
of more democratic modes. The introduction of a compulsory fee and BID-
friendly adjustments of the city’s institutional structures and decision-making
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80 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
processes are seen as most apparent signs for a changing relation between
public and private interests (Töpfer, Eick, and Sambale 2007). Yet, in line
with the notion of varieties of capitalism, some have argued, BIDs are largely
alien to a “coordinated market economy” such as Germany and its tradition
of urban governance and urban planning (Vollmer 2011).
While the first legally enacted BID was established in 2005, discussions
date back several years. A conference on urban entertainment centers and
private urban planning in 1998 organized by the Department of Urban
Development in North Rhine-Westphalia rather incidentally started the
debate by a talk on BIDs in the United States (Ministerium für Arbeit,
Soziales und Stadtentwicklung, Kultur und Sport des Landes Nordrhein-
Westfalen [MASSKS] 1999). For a broader community of property owners,
government agencies and especially chambers of commerce, BIDs became
an issue after the publication of a study commissioned by the Department of
State of Urban Development and Housing in North Rhine-Westphalia
(Ministerium für Städtebau und Wohnen Kultur und Sport des Landes
Nordrhein-Westfalen [MSWKS] 2001). This study attempted a first survey
on whether BIDs could be transferred to Germany and whether or not there
could be political and constitutional constraints. The state government in
North Rhine-Westphalia, which until 2005 was a stronghold of German
Social Democrats, in the short term preferred a voluntary model to the com-
pulsory BID model that would force property owner to join a BID. In the end,
a BID scheme was introduced in North Rhine-Westphalia a couple of years
later, only after the first BIDs had been launched in other federal states and
Christian Democrats gained the majority in government for the first time in
forty years.
Similar to the United States, the German federal system that applies as
well for the planning law system requires BID legislative to be passed at the
level of the federal states.3 The jurisdiction of federal states led to a frag-
mented policy landscape concerning BIDs.4 The city-state of Hamburg was
the first and passed its BID law and hence was the place where the first BIDs
in Germany were established. Today, 6 out of the 16 federal states have BID
legislations and 26 BIDs have so far been initiated in 13 cities and munici-
palities—some of which have already phased out.5 More than a third of these
BIDs are located within the limits of the City of Hamburg.
While so far BID laws were only put in place in federal states that at that
time were run by conservative Christian Democrat’s governments (CDU,
Christian Democratic Union of Germany), whereas Social Democrats (SPD,
Social Democratic Party of Germany) and left wing (Die Linke) governments
voted against introducing BIDs in most cases, it would be misleading to see
them solely as a tool for conservative and neoliberal politics. In Bavaria and
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Michel and Stein 81
other federal states that would not be suspicious of being governed by a left
wing government, BID laws were rejected on the ground of being against free
market and a presumed conflict with the constitutionally guaranteed negative
freedom of association (i.e., you must not be forced to join any association).
This is one reason the (neo) liberal FDP (Free Democratic Party) on the local
scale often opposed BID legislature. In states governed by Christian
Democrats that did not establish BID laws, more often than not Social
Democrats or center-left Green Party asked for their implementation. BIDs,
one could argue, cross the traditional party lines and are understood as a
rather fuzzy concept, which could entail a wide range of meanings and
As we will see, the managing and financing power of the state—while also
diminishing to some degree—remains central in a way hardly comparable to
the British or North American context. A relatively high taxation results in a
relatively high level of public services in cities. Even with BIDs and BID-like
schemes, the state remains the most important financier for many public–
private partnerships in urban development. Compared with the United States
and to the discontent of many apologists of BIDs, the reality of BIDs in
Germany at first glance often looks like a bleak statist version.
In the remainder of this paper, we are going to elaborate on how for sev-
eral reasons even the largest BIDs in Germany can hardly compete with the
scale and complexity of tasks and measures performed by BIDs in the United
States, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Despite these relativizations,
BIDs do change politics in German cities and these transformations will be
the subject of our case study from Hamburg. Due to the local and contested
nature of mobile policies, it cannot easily be translated to an overall trend in
Germany. Nonetheless, we would argue that it provides some insight into the
reworking of this mode of urban governance within the context of a less lib-
eral market economy and the leitmotif of the “European City.”
Before turning to our case study and a closer examination of how BIDs
were introduced and implemented in the City of Hamburg and its very spe-
cific urban regime, we will take a closer look at the discourse in which BIDs
in Germany are embedded. This will help to strengthen the argument that the
way BIDs are articulated within public and policy discourses in Germany
differs significantly from places like the United States, the United Kingdom,
or South Africa (Michel 2013a).
Voices of Decline and Agents of Regeneration
From the very beginning, chambers of commerce, and especially the Chamber
of Commerce in Hamburg, were at the forefront of promoting BIDs in
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82 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
Germany. This was undertaken by various publications and intense lobby-
ism, by interregional round tables and since 2009 by an annual conference
including the presentation of the German BID Award to outstanding achieve-
ments for the advance of BIDs in Germany. While there was hardly any voice
critical of BIDs in the formative years (notable exceptions are Glasze 2001;
Pütz 2008; Töpfer, Eick, and Sambale 2007), there is a wide debate among its
Similar to other places, a discourse of urban decline and crisis (Beauregard
2002), either as a process that is taking place or as a threat and anticipated
risk, is constitutive for presenting BIDs as a problem-solving strategy (Michel
2013a). While this discourse of decline in early 1990s New York and early
2000s South Africa was closely linked to a narrative of violent crime, pov-
erty, and the fear of the white middle class to even get near to the urban
centers of large cities, the threat to Germany’s inner cities is represented by
reduced and dysfunctional public funding, growing social conflicts within
inner cities but most of all by the growing importance of suburban shopping
centers—the BID’s and inner-city’s “archenemy” (Egger 2008, p. 81)—that
leads to a downturn and a loss of traditionally and historically grown inner-
city shopping districts. So while a story of decline and threat seems omni-
present in most contexts where BIDs were introduced, what counts as a threat
and what produces an urgency to act depend very much on the local
Presenting shopping centers as the constitutive outside of BIDs helps to
legitimize BIDs and also to silence the critique about a lack of democratic
legitimacy and a takeover of public space through private interests. As the
BID commissioner of the chamber of commerce in Hamburg put it,
In shopping centers there are no demonstrations taking place nor are there
panhandlers either . . . With the BID we got an instrument . . . to maintain those
organically evolved quarters competitive and to make sure that they will attract
people even in ten, twenty or thirty years as quarters where the shops are, but
also the homeless. (interview June 30, 2010, translated by the authors)
Thus, BIDs are presented to be guardians of the ideal (or vision) of the
“European City.” This vision is closely linked to a traditional imagination of
dense, organically evolved, historical, and democratic places and opposed to
a car-friendly and space-consuming urban sprawl. The traditional inner-city
shopping district, it is argued, is increasingly competing against “uniformly
managed temples to consumerism” (Prey and Vollmer 2009, p. 239). Inner-
city shopping districts, thus, are equated with a historical sense of place, with
the public sphere and an idealized history of civic emancipation.
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Michel and Stein 83
BIDs, it is reasoned, are a prime mechanism for promoting and sustaining
the virtues of the “European City” by ways of privatized micromanagement
of urban space. Following this discourse, the state is neither willing nor
capable of improving the urban landscape of inner-city shopping districts
and public spaces to attract customers and businesses (Gorgol 2008).
Simultaneously, any conventional attempt to ease the situation by private
initiative is questioned by the problem of freeloaders and the lulling effects
of a deep-seated belief in the paternalistic state. What city centers are lack-
ing, it is argued, is exactly the form of center management known from
enclosed shopping centers, which in the minds of BIDs advocates is also a
way to initiate solidarity between property owners (Egger 2008; Pitschas
2007; Rettig 2008).
Following this discourse, BIDs embody a new concept of the state’s role
in urban governance and the state in general. As the state is perceived to no
longer be able to perform its traditional core functions and the tasks faced
become complex (and complexity is nothing the state can handle but only the
market) deregulation, privatization and activation of a broader set of actors
and stakeholders become imperative (Heinze 2009; Rettig 2008). BIDs, it is
argued by a number of BID advocates, establish a mode of “cooperative
democracy.” This notion combines entrepreneurialism in urban development
with civil society and civic participation. Thereby, the discourse (not the
actual practices) is very much antistatist. In this sense, BIDs link a discourse
of local democracy and participation (Hill 2005; Wendland, Böhme, and
Warsewa 2011) with the entrepreneurial urbanism and the imperative to get
economic elites involved and, thus, strengthen their influence on urban devel-
opment. Presenting BIDs as a “privately initiated association and organiza-
tion of citizens for a limited period of time” (Schriefers 2007) blurs the
difference between the social and the economy and their respective interests.
This helps to articulate the voices of BIDs and property owners as the voice
of the common good and as the interests of a certain place.
Localizing BIDs in Hamburg
So far, the City of Hamburg is the only major German city where BIDs play
a significant role. As of mid-2013, 10 BIDs have been established with 2 of
them having been renewed after their first five-year term and 2 are expected
to get renewed soon. One BID expired after its three-year term. Currently, 7
new BID initiatives are under way, while 1 failed in 2009 due to strong resis-
tance by property owners (see Table 1). So far, there are only two other
German cities with more than one BID. Within Hamburg’s city center, BIDs
are lining up more and more without a gap covering many of the most presti-
gious shopping districts (see Figure 1).
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84 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
Before going into more detail, it is worth to highlight some points about
Hamburg’s role within the German urban system. Along with Frankfurt,
Hamburg is one of Germany’s most “Global Cities.” As one of the major
seaports in Europe and one of the richest cities in Germany, Hamburg, in a
time when urbanists and politicians in Germany often talked about shrinking
cities, was marketed as a growing and globalizing city. After the crisis of
harbor service industries and maritime trade during the 1970s, Hamburg
quickly adopted a progrowth agenda. In 1983, Hamburg’s governing mayor
von Dohnanyi famously introduced the concept of Hamburg as an entrepre-
neurial city. His call for Hamburg to become an “Unternehmen Stadt” (lit.
“Enterprise-City”) was probably one of the first explicit formulations of
entrepreneurial urbanism (see Ronneberger, Lanz, and Jahn 1999). Throughout
Table 1. BIDs in Hamburg (Last Update in September 2013).
Budget (€)
(Years) Plots Area (ha)
Average Levy
(€ per Year
and m2) Established
Running BIDs
Wandsbek Markt 798,000 5 65 12.2 6.6 2008
Hohe Bleichen 389,500 5 19 2.4 15.9 2009
Sachsentor 2 120,000 5 101 5.0 2.4 2009
Neuer Wall 2 636,820 5 54 4.9 13.1 2010
Tibarg 350,110 5 32 7.8 4.5 2010
Opernboulevard 725,000 3 18 4.1 17.6 2011
Passagenviertel 1,011,390 5 22 4.7 21.5 2011
Planned BIDs
Mönckebergstraße 400,000 5 20 11.2 NA 2013 (expected)
Nikolaiquartier 1,800,000 5 69 15.3 11.7 2013 (expected)
Osterstraße NA NA 130 13.4 NA NA
St. Pauli 1,500,000aNA 120 13.6 NA NA
Steilshoop (HID) 300,000 5 90 70.7 2.1 NA
Waitzstraße NA NA NA NA NA 2013 (expected)
Rissen 66,670 3 32 5.1 1.3 2009 (failed)
Gänsemarkt 3,500,000aNA 22 NA NA 2014 (expected)
Alte Holstenstraße 2 120,000 5 44 6.9 NA 2013 (expected)
Lüneburger Straße 2 200,000 3 62 5.0 NA 2013 (expected)
Expired BIDs
Neuer Wall 1 1,199,200 5 54 4.9 24.7 2005
Sachsentor 1 50,000 3 83 5.0 1.0 2005
OXBID 57,550 3 19 4.7 1.2 2010
Lüneburger Straße 1 182,800 3 65 5.0 3.7 2009
Alte Holstenstraße 1 110,000 3 42 6.9 1.6 2009
Note. BIDs = Business Improvement Districts; HID = Housing Improvement District.
a.In total over the whole term.
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Michel and Stein 85
the 1980s and 1990s, urban development policies of Hamburg were geared to
this vision by focusing on the attraction of new businesses, especially in the
secondary- and tertiary-sector industries. In 1997, plans were introduced to
transform large parts of the old docks and warehouses into a prime waterfront
Figure 1. BIDs in Hamburg (last update in September 2013).
Note. BIDs = Business Improvement Districts; HID = Housing Improvement District.
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86 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
district—making it one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in
Germany (Dörfler 2011). It is within this context that in the 1990s Hamburg
was increasingly represented as an internationally renowned “Boomtown”
(Oßenbrügge, Heeg, and Klagge 2004).
But despite a prosperous economy and because of stagnating revenues in
the wake of tax incentives for businesses, increasing pressure was experi-
enced by public authorities in Hamburg. This led to declining public invest-
ments in inner-city and suburban retail districts.
Legal Framework
In the early 2000s, first debates around BIDs emerged. Pushed forward by
Hamburg’s chamber of commerce, an extraordinarily strong institution
within Hamburg’s urban regime that is very keen on highlighting its centuries
old history of trade and commerce, the idea was enthusiastically taken up by
the city government. In 2003, in front of the same audience then governing
mayor von Dohnanyi had made his call for the entrepreneurial city 20 years
earlier, the governing mayor von Beust held an antistatist speech and made
BIDs a top priority and furthermore presented them as a key to booster the
city’s economy (von Beust 2004). In late 2004, the “Gesetz zur Stärkung der
Einzelhandels-, Dienstleistungs- und Gewerbezentren” (law for strengthen-
ing retail, service and business centers) was passed and was commenced in
2005, making it the first BID law in Germany. In 2007, the law was revised
by introducing a levy cap for large properties, whose owners felt discrimi-
nated by the initial law.
The law, which became the blueprint for most other BID laws in the coun-
try, requires 15% of the property owners in the given area to actively support
the implementation of a BID. If less than a third of the owners reject the plan,
the city installs the BID and formalizes the steering committee—a committee
open to all property owners in the district. The steering committee then com-
missions a body to execute the BID’s tasks and duties. The oversight, espe-
cially of report and accounting, is assigned to Hamburg’s chamber of
commerce (whereas in other federal states, the oversight remains with the
local state). As a BID only is installed for a limited term of three to five years,
the BID has to be renewed by a new ballot after this period. In Hamburg,
some BIDs were renewed after a new ballot and some expired without imme-
diate attempts to renew the BID.
As in other German cities, but different to BIDs in those cities that started as
the showcases for BIDs, what is striking is that it is not the office sector and
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Michel and Stein 87
not a central business district where BIDs play the most important role.
Instead of high-rise office centers, most city centers in German cities are
dominated by low- to medium-rise buildings. Even in cities that were heavily
destroyed in World War II, most buildings were rebuilt with a similar
height—be it in a neo-traditionalist or a modernist way. This has conse-
quences not just for the image and representation of German cities in the
years to come, but it also has consequences for property values in city cen-
ters. In the case of BIDs, this results in relatively low maximum levies as
property values are relatively low and floor sizes relatively small compared
with those in high-rise central business districts. The total budget for the three
to five years terms of Hamburg’s BIDs varies from just over €150.000 to €6
million.6 Around 4 of the 10 BIDs in operation control a budget of less than
€1 million and inner-city BIDs in general are richer than those on the urban
Among these, the BID “Neuer Wall” stands out in public attention and
often works as a figurehead of BIDs in Hamburg and nationwide (Rothmann
2008). Not only was the plan to form a BID at “Neuer Wall” the first attempt
to form a BID in Germany—even though suburban Bergedorf was a little bit
quicker in formally establishing a BID—but it is rather the most prominent
example in terms of its initial resources, tasks, and visibility. As a BID in a
historical prime downtown shopping district with high-end brands, it repre-
sents a successful place more than others. Even if the threat of an inner-city
shopping mall and some vacancies was one reason for establishing the BID,
the area never experienced a severe downturn. This is what distances “Neuer
Wall” from most other BIDs in Hamburg and probably Germany in general.
More typical BIDs are located in outer boroughs or smaller urban quarters
with a smaller budget and less public attention.
As one British BID manager at an international conference of BID profes-
sionals stated, BIDs in Germany perform much fewer and less complex tasks
than those in the United States and the United Kingdom. This, he argued, is
not just true with regard to the international flagship projects but more gen-
eral. Indeed, a number of BIDs only work on one or two topics. Nonetheless,
at first sight, the tasks BIDs in Hamburg perform are not unlike those in most
other contexts. Marketing, improvements of the built environment, security,
and cleanliness are among the most visible tasks of BIDs.
Most BIDs are involved in some kind of place branding and marketing,
constructing their area as a distinct place and addressing specific customers.
Measures reach from seasonal decorations, standardized urban furniture,
and upgrading street pavements to festivalization and place branding.
Focusing on the beautification of public space, the four financially strongest
BIDs in Hamburg are concentrating on the lion’s shares of their budgets for
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88 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
improving the built environment. While marketing and place branding are
key to what all other BIDs in Hamburg do, compared with BIDs in other
places, they are much more subtle. The existence of a private BID organiza-
tion in most cases is hardly mentioned at all. So while it is hard to miss the
existence of numerous BIDs in many inner cities in the United States due to
the sheer presence of banner, poster, and decorated trash bins, hardly any-
thing of that kind is present to indicate BIDs in Hamburg.
While security and providing additional cleaning are among the most
important issues for many BIDs, and BIDs are often closely linked to policies
of zero tolerance and broken window theories, direct provision of additional
security forces is scarce in Germany. On one hand, there is the perception of
a relative safety within most inner-city areas, and on the other hand, there is
relatively little acceptance for private security in public space. When private
security is in place, it addresses primarily visible problems of disorder and
vandalism and what is addressed as “crime & grime.” As for now, only the
BID “Neuer Wall” has a full-time provision of additional security and the
BID “Sachsentor” in the borough of Bergedorf deploys private security on
weekend nights to prevent vandalism, especially graffiti.
Evolving Governance Frameworks Between BIDs
and the State
Given that BIDs in Hamburg are relatively small and much less visible in
public space than they are in other places, one could argue there is not much
reason to care about, because beside their ideological background, their
impact seems to be marginal. While we would warn not to exaggerate the
actual impact of BIDs in Germany and to proclaim an easy and inevitable
transfer of the program to Germany, the case of Hamburg clearly shows how
BIDs have become influential local and place-based lobby organizations and,
thus, can severely influence urban regimes and alter local power relations.
BIDs enjoy a privileged access to city officials and are treated favorably
by the city and district administrations, both formal and informal. Very early
on, the City of Hamburg installed a BID commissioner in one of its depart-
ments and created a network of contact persons on the local scale in all of its
boroughs. The BID commissioner of the Department for Urban Development
and Environment pointed out,
We call it one-face-policy, because there is one contact person for the various
problems the private sector may encounter. If citizens take the initiative, they
actually deserve that the city . . . supports them . . . one could expect to be
helped a little bit. (interview June 6, 2011, translated by the authors)
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Michel and Stein 89
This proclaimed “one-face-policy” aims at fast-tracking the process of
BID formation as well as the everyday contacts between BIDs and the city. It
follows a “no-nonsense,” antired tape and “getting-things-done” rhetoric,
which sees state bureaucracies and regulation as the main obstacles to a busi-
ness-friendly urban environment. In this regard, BIDs fit perfectly well into a
neoliberal and antistatist discourse.
The close and direct relation between city government and BIDs is one
major reason for the relative success of BIDs in Hamburg. Especially when
compared with larger federal states, there is an extensive network of BID
advocates, which includes not just a range of city administrations, the influ-
ential chamber of commerce, and BIDs but also a supportive university, city
managements, and developers. Far from being solely a private-sector proj-
ect, BIDs are essentially embedded in wider network including a number of
state actors. Where these are absent or less supportive, BIDs seem to have a
hard time.
While this opens the doors for more informal and privileged access to said
bureaucracies and BIDs get the city and other agencies to do things ordinary
citizens would find it hard to achieve, BIDs are also formally privileged as
they are established as public agencies (Träger öffentlicher Belange).7 A BID
representative makes it clear:
It is important to emphasize that the BID doesn’t do anything that is actually
object of the city, but provide additional possibilities—the fact that we . . . as
. . . a public agency are able to force the city to do what they have to do. So that
means to call the sanitation department and say: “There’s something to do,
that’s your job.” (interview June 30, 2010, translated by the authors)
Moreover, and different from former forms of voluntary property owners’
associations, the city is required to take BIDs into account in their planning
processes. BIDs are legally authorized to influence broader issues of urban
planning in their respective area on a scale that is privileged over non-BID
actors. Once established as public agencies, the BID representatives have to
be heard in all public decision-making processes concerning the BIDs area.
By this means, the right of BIDs to influence public planning issues is for-
mally equated with the right of the city council to do so. Hence, they are able
to ensure property owner interests (e.g., regarding the preservation and/or
promotion of a business and consumer friendly environment) to be consid-
ered. And as BIDs are established on the base of property owners’ interests,
this privileging of those with property poses some concerns regarding their
democratic legitimacy. As mentioned above, advocates proclaim a link
between civil society, the “European City,” public good, and BIDs that is
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90 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
opposed to the old statist system. While one could argue that this is pure ide-
ology, the move to become a major voice and render invisible political con-
testations of an urban place—this claim can become real.
The case of Hamburg points out that BIDs are able to selectively refocus
public-sector services onto their respective territory. Moreover, the influence
of property owners’ coalitions on decisions in urban development is guaran-
teed by law through their confederation in BIDs. Thus, BIDs far less substi-
tute the state—the neoliberal’s argument—but redirect the state and its
investments toward their location and electorate, that is, the local property
owner. With Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) becoming more dominant,
BIDs become a tool to channel public investments into urban neighbor-
hoods—with some neighborhoods being more capable of doing so than oth-
ers. Therefore, BIDs on one hand contribute to a higher risk of uneven
distribution of services for the public, and on the other hand, they induce
significant pressure to build up public–private governance frameworks in the
neighboring quarters. Moreover, the influence of BIDs in Hamburg is not
only tolerated or accepted by the local state but the local government is rather
aggressively pushing forward the establishment of new BIDs. It is increas-
ingly tying its own investments to associated private investments in the pub-
lic space.
Even BID proponents see the role of BIDs in Germany only as an on-top
measure with a relatively limited impact on wider urban fabric. Disregarding
a small number of larger and financially powerful BIDs, such as Neuer Wall,
we would argue that BIDs in Germany so far are not capable of performing
substantive redevelopment projects and government-funded urban redevel-
opment will remain central. While on a conceptual level we would agree with
the idea that BIDs are a neoliberal strategy that aims at producing purified
and exclusionary urban spaces, we would argue that so far their capabilities
of doing so remain limited. Even the largest BIDs in Hamburg appear small
and limited in comparison to BIDs in more liberal market economies.
But while their visible impact on urban spaces remains limited, their
power as a lobby is of significance. As place-based “Träger Öffentlicher
Belange,” they gain privileged access to decision-making processes and are
thereby regarded as privileged and legitimate voices of their respective place.
They, it is claimed, speak for the interests of their place. More than substitut-
ing the state in a wide range of issues by private means as we know from the
large BIDs in places such as New York,8 it is a privileged access to the state’s
resources and decision makers’ BIDs gains. As BIDs are constituted within
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Michel and Stein 91
the discourse of policy makers as guardians of the ideal of a historical, dense
and democratic tradition of the “European City,” they are established as a key
to preserve this notion of “good” urbanism and to defend it against its coun-
terpoints—whether it is suburban shopping malls, city bureaucrats, or visible
disorder. By this means, BIDs do play an important role in Hamburg and a
small number of other cities and by privileging property owner interests,
thus, point to a shift in urban governance. BIDs contest the way in which
urban development was negotiated. BIDs, even of small size and budget, do
have impact on governmental action in urban space.
However, the often harmonious and supporting interplay between the pub-
lic-sector and private-property owners does not inevitably entail further pro-
liferation of the BID model in Germany. This becomes apparent in the case
of the BID in Haltern am See, which was introduced at the beginning of this
paper and points out the contingency of the rollout of BIDs in Germany.
When we started writing this paper, there was some excitement among BID
advocates that the first BID in North Rhine-Westphalia—a federal state that
seems to be much less dominated by a boosterist discourse of neoliberal
urbanism than Hamburg—was introduced. Having complied official require-
ments and passed the ballots, its initiation was regarded as prove that even
within the former stronghold of social democracy, a strong welfareist regime
and small cities BIDs would flourish and supplant old models of voluntary
property owner associations. It was taken as a prime example for the compat-
ibility of extensive government funding (in North Rhine-Westphalia about
50% of the BID budget) and compulsory property owner levies at the same
time. When we finished writing this paper, this BID ceased to exist. However,
having succeeded in overcoming initial protests (successful ballot but with
slim majority), the resistance articulated by property owners moved on. Less
than half a year later, the BID abandoned its bylaw and failed. While rela-
tively rare in the City of Hamburg, failure is common for BID initiatives
elsewhere in Germany (Michel 2013b).
Contrasting BID developments in Hamburg with the example of the BID
in Haltern am See illustrates the local specificity of global circulations of
discourses even within the same national context. It makes clear that the tra-
jectory of BID implementation within Germany is far from uniformly. Rather
the (re-)contextualization of policies is contested on a number of scales and
by a number of agents. The empirical findings demonstrate varied forms of
modulation of globalized policy models through the interplay with local dis-
courses, institutional settings, and path dependencies. In contrast the expecta-
tions we gained from the literature on BIDs in North America, successful
transfer is not an inevitable outcome of a seemingly global urban neoliberal-
ism but dependent on highly supportive local regimes and discourses.
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92 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
Whereas not only Haltern am See but also cities with boosterist urban
regimes, such as Frankfurt or Munich, were not able to form an alliance of
support, Hamburg managed to form such an alliance of the local state, the
chamber of commerce, property owners, and a strong discourse on a long-
standing tradition of Hanseatic trade and commerce. To increase an under-
standing of these frictions and the somewhat partial success of BIDs in
Germany, there remains a strong need for comparative studies between seem-
ingly similar as well as different context. So far, the focus on successful
transfers in and between cities in North America, the United Kingdom, and
South Africa has limited an understanding of these complexities. Following
refracted processes of contingent success stories beyond the well-established
sites could broaden the understanding of intertwined local and global trajec-
tories of policy models and help prevent to reify narrations of track records.
The paper has benefited from conversations with Georg Glasze and Robert Pütz. The
authors thank Eugene McCann for his thoughtful comments and to the anonymous
reviewers for their helpful remarks.
Declaration of Conflicting Interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/
or authorship of this article: This project was funded by the German Research
Foundation (DFG).
1. Robert Walsh is Commissioner of New York’s Department of Small Business
Services, the city agency that deals with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs),
George Kelling is one of the driving forces behind the Broken Windows Theory
and fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute.
2. On federal level, solely guiding principles concerning spatial development are
defined. According to those general regulations, federal states legislate on urban
and regional planning. Municipalities in turn are responsible for real estate fees
and taxes.
3. As there must not be any non-German terms in any German law, the official
nomenclature differs in some state laws. Hamburg’s “law for strengthening
retail, service and business centers” Gesetz zur Stärkung der Einzelhandels-,
Dienstleistungs- und Gewerbezentren (GSED) addresses BIDs as “areas for
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Michel and Stein 93
strengthening the innovation of retail, service or business centers” or “innovation
areas,” in Schleswig-Holstein, they are addressed as “partnerships for improving
city, service and tourism areas” Partnerschaften zur Attraktivierung von City-,
Dienstleistungs- und Tourismusbereichen (PACT), and in Saarland, they are “alli-
ances for innovation and services” (BID). Nonetheless, Business Improvement
District remains the term most often used in public and political discourse.
4. The number of BID initiatives that failed to get the necessary support by local
property owners or for other reasons failed to establish a formal BID is hard to
guess and differs greatly between local contexts. But it is safe to say that a large
proportion of BID initiatives for one reason or the other did not end up with a for-
mal BID. This is especially true for the larger federal states such as North Rhine-
Westphalia or Hesse.
5. The resources in most other countries are calculated, collected, and stated on an
annual basis.
6. In German planning law, a “Träger öffentlicher Belange” (lit. “agency of public
concern”) is not necessarily a public body, but a body that has to be consulted in
public planning processes. This can not only be national or local government agen-
cies but also private-sector utilities or organizations from civil society.
7. This surely is an idealized narrative. State funding and tax breaks have frequently
been important in starting inner-city BIDs.
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98 Urban Affairs Review 51(1)
Author Biographies
Boris Michel is a geographer at the University of Erlangen–Nuremberg. His research
interests focus on urban studies and on the history of Geography. He wrote his Ph.D.
on urban transformation in the Philippines. He published articles in Urban Geography,
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and Berichte zur Deutschen
Landeskunde and Geographische Zeitschrift, and he coedited books on the production
of space in critical geography. He is currently working on a project on the history of
Christian Stein is a research associate at the Department of Human Geography in
Frankfurt/Main since 2009. Relating to his Ph.D. project his research is focused on the
analysis of the international spread and transfer of urban revitalization policies in the
context of business improvement districts. He studied social geography, geographical
information science, and urban planning at the University of Münster/Germany and
the University of Lund/Sweden.
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... Thus, New York City's BIDs and their evidence-based triumphs acted as 'inspiring prototypes' in a wide range of global circuits of knowledge to induce international policy learning and exchange [5,6,11]. Predictably, over the past three decades, BIDs have crossed the US borders and spread to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the 1990s and England, Wales, Scotland and Germany in the early 2000s [5,12,13]. BIDs have also been territorialized in Northern Ireland, the Netherlands and Japan, while other countries have recently set up pilot initiatives and discussed the politics of their formation [14,15]. ...
... J. Berg also collaborated in a policing project at the University of Cape Town, which resulted in her Ph.D. in 2015 [71,93]. Similarly, some scholars in Germany, headed by B. Michel and C. Stein, conducted a "comparative research project on trajectories of local implementations of BIDs in several different national and regional contexts" [13] [97,98] and moved further into the BID field by integrating her expertise in social work with the homeless in BID areas [99,100]. ...
... Critic. 13 Brooks 2008 ...
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Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are a contemporary urban revitalization policy that has been set in motion through international policymaking circuits. They have been presented as a panacea to the economic and social challenges facing many cities and traditional shopping districts. However, a comprehensive overview of the academic literature on this form of local governance remains to be conducted. Drawing on bibliometric methods and bibliometrix R-tool, this paper maps and examines the state-of-the-art of academic knowledge on BIDs published between 1979 and 2021. Findings suggest that (i) scientific production has increased since the early 2000s, has crossed US borders but remains highly Anglo-Saxon-centered; (ii) academic knowledge on BIDs is multidisciplinary and has been published in high-impact journals; (iii) influential documents on BIDs have centered on three issues: urban governance/politics, policy mobilities–mutation and impacts assessment and criticisms; (iv) while author collaboration networks exist, the interaction between them is limited; (v) the conceptualization of BIDs has changed over time, both in thematic and geographical focus. These results constitute the first science mapping on the academic literature on BIDs, and we argue they should inform future scientific debates about the studying of this form of local governance.
... Thus, following the question asked by Shaw [57] "What city would not want to be like the Big Apple?", this city became a case study for the international benchmarking of the BID model. However, it must be noted that the adoption of some BIDs as relevant for benchmarking does not mean the modus operandi of BIDs towards urban revitalization is the same in every country that has adopted this model [58]. Local specificities are taken in consideration upon the transfer and incorporation of the BID model to national and local contexts (e.g., see the transfer of BIDs into South Africa, as analyzed by Didier et al. [37]). ...
... These authors consider BIDs to be actors in an urban governance network. Although there are a meaningful number of articles that specified that BIDs constituted as forms of urban governance or as actors in such networks [3,58], the selected literature is not straightforward regarding the composition and implications of this urban governance structure or network, per se. To this matter, Briffault [65] seminal work is essential, as the author debates the comprehensiveness of BIDs. ...
... In their analysis of transferring BIDs into the Swedish planning framework, Cook and Ward [75] stressed the role of conferences and workshops, with whom city officials, academics, practitioners, consultants, and other agents gathered to share knowledge and discuss the possibility of adapting BIDs for the Swedish context. Similarly, Michel and Stein [58] (p. 80) also stated how, in Germany, a conference on urban entertainment centers and private planning triggered a discussion of BIDs that led to a study on the possible transfer of the model to the country. ...
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For some time, business improvement districts (BIDs) have entered into the discourse and practice of academics and urban planners. This model for town centre revitalization was created in North America, whose success has led to its transfer to a growing number of countries. This evolution highlights the importance of BIDs as an urban planning practice, as well as an object of study for academics interested in new models for intervening in central urban areas. BIDs are public–private partnerships, framed within an entrepreneurial logic of urban management that aims to increase the cities’ competitiveness. In this article, we aim to unfold the main research subjects of the literature focused on BIDs. We develop a systematic review for said endeavor, resorting to the established PRISMA protocol. After the screening and analysis of selected articles, four main research subjects were documented: (i) urban governance; (ii) urban policies: mobility and transfer; (iii) activities/axis of intervention; and (iv) types of BIDs/places of intervention. The selected literature enhances the contradictory nature of BIDs, ranging from the economic revitalization of city centres to the occasional exclusionary stance, in which it is developed. Our analysis also points to the important role of different actors in all stages of the policy transfer and implementation.
... Los ingresos del AEEP permiten financiar servicios y mejoras dentro del sector para generar actividad económica. Por ello, se considera una propuesta innovadora y efectiva para resolver problemas públicos [3]. ...
... También, difieren de la mayoría de los otros modelos de gestión de la ciudad debido a que se establece su obligatoriedad para todos los propietarios o negocios en el área según los tiempos dados. Lo anterior, ayuda a deshacerse del problema conocido por las asociaciones voluntarias, donde aquellos que no participan en la financiación de las mejoras se benefician de ellos [3]. ...
... Michel y Stein [3] presentan un estudio desarrollado por la Universidad de Erlangen-Nürnberg Erlangen, en Alemania, donde describen la flexibilidad y resistencia de los BID (Business Improvement District) y el impacto que se genera en la región. Además, presentan los modelos de regulación en el territorio urbano, tomando la ciudad de Hamburgo como referente, conforme al impacto sobre la población de comerciantes y el gobierno local. ...
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El espacio público constituye el conjunto de bienes y elementos arquitectónicos que hacen parte del goce y disfrute de una comunidad. El aprovechamiento económico del espacio público tiene como objetivo motivar a la ciudadanía al apropiamiento del espacio público con buenas prácticas, originando recursos para el sostenimiento y contribuyendo al mejoramiento físico y autocontrol de la ocupación del entorno. En la revisión de literatura se evidencia que se carece de una estructura de datos que consolide la información de los espacios públicos de esparcimiento y encuentro, corredores viales y amoblamiento urbano que sirvan como insumo para el modelado del espacio. En este artículo se presenta el método “Estrategia Integral para el Aprovechamiento Económico del Espacio Público del Municipio de Medellín” considerada una guía con acciones para promover, sostener y actualizar las diferentes dinámicas socio económicas, paisajísticas y físico espaciales del territorio.
... In addition to describing the justificatory logics used to legitimise BIDs in particular cities, these studies argue that the adoption of the BID model in new countries demonstrates the resilience and permeability of neoliberal urban policies as it is made to fit local political, institutional and economic environments. In the German context, the adoption of the BID model in Hamburg demonstrates a drastic shift away from the country's state-led urban planning towards neoliberal entrepreneurial strategies that empower the private sector; representing a new 'corporate democracy' (Michel and Stein, 2015) or 'informal constitutional state' where 'monied oligarchies' organise public spaces in a neocorporatist way (Eick, 2012). Although Hamburg BIDs are smaller in size, scope and resources compared with their American counterparts, they have nevertheless become powerful lobbying tools for local property owners because they gain easy access to city officials and public decisionmaking processes (Michel and Stein, 2015). ...
... In the German context, the adoption of the BID model in Hamburg demonstrates a drastic shift away from the country's state-led urban planning towards neoliberal entrepreneurial strategies that empower the private sector; representing a new 'corporate democracy' (Michel and Stein, 2015) or 'informal constitutional state' where 'monied oligarchies' organise public spaces in a neocorporatist way (Eick, 2012). Although Hamburg BIDs are smaller in size, scope and resources compared with their American counterparts, they have nevertheless become powerful lobbying tools for local property owners because they gain easy access to city officials and public decisionmaking processes (Michel and Stein, 2015). The adoption of the BID model in Hamburg is not just another example of a neoliberal urban governance model in another country, but demonstrates the elasticity and resilience of neoliberalism as it transforms existing political-economic approaches into quick 'neoliberal fixes' to local urban problems (see Valli and Hammami, 2021). ...
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Originally created in 1970 by a small group of business people in Toronto's Bloor West Village, Business Improvement Districts (hereafter BIDs) have become commonplace urban revitalisation strategies in cities across the world. Many critical urban scholars have conceptualised BIDs as neoliberal organisations and have resultantly critiqued their role in contemporary urban govern-ance. With BIDs now existing for over 50 years, the purpose of this paper is to provide an overdue reappraisal of the BID research and orient future scholarship. After describing key debates from early BID research, this paper analyses two distinct themes in more recent scholarship: (1) BID policy mobility, and (2) BIDs and social regulation. As the BID model has been transferred to new locations across both the Global North and South, its rapid mobility demonstrates the per-meability, resilience and limits of neoliberal urban policies. Moreover, BIDs' social control tactics highlight how these organisations are shaped by a neoliberal logic that seeks to manage and control urban spaces in ways that attract desirable consumers and exclude the visible poor. This paper outlines the origins of both bodies of work and traces common patterns and variances over time. It concludes by highlighting gaps in the existing literature and offers suggestions for future work.
... The second group of BID partnerships (and the focus of this article) are property-based, non-profit associations established in residential neighborhoods-Neighborhood Business Improvement Districts (NBIDs) 1 . Internationally, residential BIDs are far less common than their commercial equivalent, but they have had a longstanding presence in some places in the United States, including Washington DC (Schaller and Modan 2005;Schaller 2019) and Pennsylvania (Morçöl and Patrick 2006), and more recently in Germany (Kreutz 2009;Michel and Stein 2015). In Sweden, NBIDs are a steadily growing phenomenon with ten BID-like partnerships currently operating in housing areas in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö -the oldest established in 2001, and the newest in 2019 (Table 1). ...
... Despite their claims of effectiveness, it is difficult to disentangle the effects of NBIDs from those of other actors and policies. NBIDs' budgets and actions are limited; as observed in other European contexts, their power lies in influencing and lobbying (Michel and Stein 2015;Richner and Olesen 2019). It is largely due to the broader structural changes in urban governance in the past three decades that they are able to harness the political power of increasingly business-oriented MHCs and growth-first local authorities. ...
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This article offers an overview of neighbourhood-based BIDs (NBIDs) in Sweden. Swedish NBIDs tend to appear in stigmatized residential areas engaging with pressing sets of urban issues that have been longstanding concern of social policy. Their overarching goal is raising property values in neighborhoods on the edge between urban decline and (re)development potential. Emerging in a neoliberalizing institutional context, NBIDs present themselves as correctives to public-policy failures by promoting property-oriented solutions. The adaptation of the BID model in the Swedish ‘post-welfare’ landscape, however, exhibits, and arguably exacerbates, the shortcomings found in BID elsewhere. Their opaque institutional structure and lack of accountability contribute to curbing democratic influence over local development, thus reinforcing spatial inequalities. We argue that the growing political advocacy for the institutionalization of the BID model in Sweden presents a new milestone in the neoliberalization of urban governance, as private actors are promoted to legitimate co-creators of urban policy.
... BIAs also engage in advocacy and government lobbying. Since BIAs often gain privileged access to local government decision-making processes (see Michel and Stein, 2014), these organizations not only exercise power over their physical urban space, they also have the power to persuade local governments to enact business-backed interests to local urban plans. ...
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While studies have shown that Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) manage and control their physical urban spaces to generate local economic growth, little work has examined how these organizations lobby for their market interests during key decision-making processes. Drawing from the pragmatic sociology of critique, this paper develops a theoretical framework to explain how political-economic power is socio-culturally encoded during local government decision-making processes. Socio-cultural power is defined through two interrelated processes: (1) interactional settings where social actors practice their critical capacity by drawing upon socio-historically created moral orders and (2) the extent to which institutional experts limit laypersons' critical capacity and successfully construct local realities to advance their agendas. This framework is applied to London, Ontario's Old East Village to show how the local BIA influenced two separate affordable housing development plans. Based on interviews, participant observation, and document analysis, the findings show that the Old East Village BIA strategically framed and co-opted community critiques of these developments in a way that justified their own market interests (more feet on the street) over the community's civic interests (the provision of affordable housing). This paper extends the BIA literature by demonstrating BIA influence over affordable housing development, local matters that are outside the purview of their commercial jurisdiction. Keywords The pragmatic sociology of critique, business improvement areas, business improvement districts, neoliberalism, affordable housing.
... How and why did the American institution of BIDs spread to other countries? Two groups of studies offer answers to these questions: those that use the policy transfer/diffusion framework (Hoyt 2004(Hoyt , 2008 and those that use the neoliberalism framework (Didier, Peyroux, and Morange 2012;Eick 2012;Lippert 2012;Michel and Stein 2015;Peyroux 2012;Stein et al. 2017). The first group of studies is mainly descriptive. ...
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This study aims to answer the question how political cultures of respective countries affect policy learning processes. Using historical and contextual information about the political cultures of the United States and Germany and with applications of the advocacy coalition framework and cultural theory, this study finds that the originally American business improvement district (BID) institutional form was adopted in Germany when its political culture was open to it. German policy makers adopted the provisions of the U.S. laws that were compatible with their secondary beliefs, which were related to where and how to deliver local services. They did not directly adopt the BID governing models in the U.S. laws, which were based on the American deep core and policy core beliefs. Instead, they adapted the American models to their own Hegelian deep core beliefs and the hierarchical political core beliefs, which resulted in the formulation of the “ Aufgabenträger” (task performer) model.
... Historical records show that the first model of a Business Development Zone was implemented in Toronto in 1970 to fund a commercial district's renewal. In the following decades, the model has expanded to several cities in Canada and other countries such as the United States (Mitchell, 1999), South Africa (Didier et al., 2012), Germany (Michel and Stein, 2014), the United Kingdom (Cook, 2009) and lately Denmark (Richner and Olesen, 2018) and Sweden (Valli and Hammami, 2020) as a new mechanism of urban revitalization and social-economic development (Hoyt, 2003;Billings & Leland, 2009). The model is almost the same, a flexible form of governance that allows its participants to autonomously operate and craft solutions to improve their lives in a single area, thus creating a more attractive destination offer for tourism, leisure, shopping, living, and doing business. ...
The spreading of business improvement districts (BIDs) and similar forms of a public-private partnership, as a new mechanism of urban revitalization and economic development, have emerged in Canada five decades ago and quickly adopted to many cities in countries such as the USA, Germany, UK, South Africa and lately Denmark and Sweden. This form of a public-private partnership with local authorities is created when a significant number of businesses or business property owners agree through a democratic process ballot to manage a delimited area and offer additional public services such as security, maintenance, infrastructure improvement, and marketing, to improve decaying commercial and residential areas. Since 2011, the model has been applied in 8 districts in Albania, contributing to improved business life, infrastructure improvement, and enhanced general public services. The period is long enough to offer insights regarding their evolution and transformative effect in the areas where it has been applied. This paper aims to explore the adaptation of the business improvement district (BID) model in urban areas in Albania and, at the same time, point out its characteristics, activities, and contribution to the area development. The methodology used includes a qualitative research design, including primary and secondary data sources. Primary data sources include interviews with BID association members, administrators, and consultants in Albania, businesses, local government officials, and lawyers. Secondary sources include different research papers on BID functionality and BID legislation, conference proceedings, project reports, entrepreneurship magazines. By identifying the effects of the model in area transformation, this study results have important implications for Albania's public and development policies and extracts practical lessons from its introduction in this local context. The findings presented demonstrate BID's transformative role for area renewal, economic and social development of the areas where it has been applied.
We use the entry of 17 external shopping malls in Sweden to investigate how they have affected the performance of incumbent firms located in the city centres of small cities. Estimating a traditional fixed effects regression model while controlling for firm-specific heterogeneity, we find that entry by external shopping malls decreased the labour productivity of incumbent firms in city centres by 5.31%. Revenues decrease by 6.62%, while the reduction in the number of employees (0.45%) is small and not significantly different from zero. However, using time-specific fixed effects to control for common time trends in retailing in small cities, we find that the impact on labour productivity, revenues and the number of employees due to the entry of external shopping malls becomes insignificant. Thus, incumbent firms in small cities have a negative development path mainly due to long-term economic trends, possibly because of the combination of urbanization effects and a lack of local investments.
As a form of a public-private partnership with local authorities, the business improvement district (BID) is created when most businesses or business property owners agree through balloting to manage a delimited commercial area with prior authorization by the local authority. The district is managed through a non-profit organization that provides additional public services such as security, maintenance, infrastructure improvement, and marketing, to improve decaying commercial and residential areas. BIDs have been praised as engines for urban development, filling the need gap between the public and private sector by providing entrepreneurial local public management and augmented public services for socioeconomic revitalization. The business improvement districts (BIDs) and similar forms of a public-private partnership, as a new mechanism for urban renewal and economic development, have emerged in North America five decades ago and quickly adopted in many cities worldwide. Since 2011, the model has been applied in 8 districts in Albania, contributing to improved business life, infrastructure improvements, and enhanced general public services. This time is considered long enough to offer insights regarding their evolution and transformative effects. This study aims at exploring the adaptation of the business improvement district (BID) model in urban areas in Albania and, at the same time, point out its characteristics, operational and functional activities, accountability, and contribution to business development and area revitalization. The methodology used in this study adopts a qualitative method, including a case study approach to data gathering Primary data sources include semi-structured interviews with BID association members, administrators, and consultants in Albania, businesses, local government officials, and lawyers. This study will contribute to a more robust contextual understanding of the establishment and effectiveness of BIDs in developing economies The findings presented demonstrate BID’s transformative role for area regeneration, economic and social development. Furthermore, this study provides additional insights regarding the effects of development organizations’ involvement in this public-private partnership model for area regeneration. The results have important implications for Albania’s public and development policies and provide practical lessons for practitioners in these fields. Furthermore, it contributes to the international literature on BIDs, including evidence of this model applied in a developing economy.
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Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are territorial subdivisions of a city in which property owners or businesses decide to self-impose an additional tax meant for the promotion and development of the area through services such as garbage collection, street maintenance, and security patrols. They were created in North America since the late 1960s and, though they embody many of the powers and privileges of the state, bear none of the responsibilities and limitations of democratic government. Since the early 1990s BIDs found their way due to a fast policy transfer across the Atlantic: First to the UK and now finally to Germany. Here they are regarded either as an offer the local business community cannot afford to refuse (i.e. some Chambers of Commerce) or as "civil society in action" (parts of the Green Party). Others regard them as questionable under constitutional law and as an instrument to privatize cities (the civil rights movement) or as "the next step towards further exclusion" of disadvantaged groups (i.e. churches and homeless service providers). We analyze these claims and offer empirical evidence from North America and Britain and eventually assess the prospects for Germany.
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Ein Leitbild mit der Perspektive der „wachsenden Stadt“ ist angesichts des Strukturwandels der Metropolregionen in Europa und in Deutschland als höchst ambitionierte Aufgabe anzusehen. Angesichts des geringen gesamtwirtschaftlichen Wachstums und des sozio-demographischen Wandels mit der Prognose einer schrumpfenden Bevölkerungszahl sind die dabei zu bewältigenden Handlungsanforderungen vielfaltig und komplex, aber auch aus noch näher zu erläuternden Gründen unterstützenswert. Der folgende Beitrag stellt einige zentrale Politikfelder in den Mittelpunkt der Betrachtung, die aus erkennbaren Trends und Leitlinien der Stadtentwicklung ausgewählter europäischer Metropolregionen hergeleitet werden. Daraus sollen themenbezogene Handlungsvorschläge für das Leitbild „Metropole Hamburg — Wachsende Stadt“ erarbeitet werden.1 Die Auswahl einzelner Themen erfolgt in einem generellen Rahmen, der durch eine knappe Zusammenfassung des gegenwärtigen stadtpolitischen Diskurses gebildet wird.
As cities have gentrified, educated urbanites have come to prize what they regard as "authentic" urban life: aging buildings, art galleries, small boutiques, upscale food markets, neighborhood old-timers, funky ethnic restaurants, and old, family-owned shops. These signify a place's authenticity, in contrast to the bland standardization of the suburbs and exurbs. But as Sharon Zukin shows in Naked City, the rapid and pervasive demand for authenticity--evident in escalating real estate prices, expensive stores, and closely monitored urban streetscapes--has helped drive out the very people who first lent a neighborhood its authentic aura: immigrants, the working class, and artists. Zukin traces this economic and social evolution in six archetypal New York areas--Williamsburg, Harlem, the East Village, Union Square, Red Hook, and the city's community gardens--and travels to both the city's first IKEA store and the World Trade Center site. She shows that for followers of Jane Jacobs, this transformation is a perversion of what was supposed to happen. Indeed, Naked City is a sobering update of Jacobs' legendary 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Like Jacobs, Zukin looks at what gives neighborhoods a sense of place, but argues that over time, the emphasis on neighborhood distinctiveness has become a tool of economic elites to drive up real estate values and effectively force out the neighborhood "characters" that Jacobs so evocatively idealized.
Business improvement districts (BIDs) are a form of special purpose government that utilize special assessments on real property to deliver services to a spatially defined commercial area. The first BIDs emerged in North America in the early to mid-1970s. They grew tremendously in the early 1990s, with some current estimates exceeding 1,500 BIDs globally as of 2018. While the legal and administrative process to create and govern BIDs varies in the United States based on state laws and local ordinances, they are typically created through a vote of affected property owners after some period of public disclosure and hearings. BIDs vary widely in their geographic size and capacity for assessment collection, ranging from $20 million-plus annual budgets and covering entire central business districts, to sub-$100,000 budgets with service areas that cover a few blocks of a neighborhood commercial strip. Assessments are typically collected by local governments and then passed on to BID operating organizations, which are usually governed by nonprofit organizations. Many BIDs also augment their assessment budgets through gifts, grants, contracts, and fees for services. These funds are used to support services that often include some mix of common area sanitation, security, marketing, and landscaping. Many large US cities have extensively used BIDs as an economic development tool, with cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles each having over forty BIDs. The growth of BIDs has been linked to set of larger of fiscal, social, and economic problems that cities faced during the era of economic restructuring and deindustrialization. BIDs filled a void left by many city governments’ inability to organize, fund, and manage services directed toward the problems facing many commercial areas, which often included crime, homelessness, and disorderly public environments. As BIDs have matured and are now a common feature of the urban landscape, they have grown in their capacities as organizations, with some comprehensive organizations fulfilling more ambitious functions related to infrastructure provision, social service coordination, urban planning, and public space management. Academic work around BIDs has been pursued by researchers and theorists across law, social science, and public affairs literatures. The dominant themes in academic work on BIDs has been organized around their various forms and functions; their accountability to the public; their effectiveness, especially in the areas of crime prevention and economic development; and social equity issues, with special attention often given to their interaction with homeless populations.
Klappentext Die Städte wandeln sich vom Produktionsstandort zur Erlebnislandschaft. Aber nicht mehr alle Bürgerinnen und Bürger sollen von diesen neuen Freizeitparks und Shopping Malls profitieren. Das garantieren Bürgerwehren und private Sicherheitsdienste. Innere Sicherheit und Stadtentwicklung: Welches Bild von der Stadt der Zukunft zeichnet sich ab, wenn beide Themen zusammengedacht werden?
Naked City is a continuation of Prof. Sharon Zukin's earlier books (Loft Living and Cultures of Cities) and updates her views on how people use culture and capital in New York. Its focus is on a conflict between city dwellers' desire for authentic origins and new beginnings, which many contemporary megalopolises meet. City dwellers wish to defend their own moral rights to redefine their places for living given upscale constructions, rapid growth, and the ethics of standardization. The author shows how in the frameworks of this conflict they construct the perceived authenticity of common and uncommon urban places. Each book chapter tells about various urban spaces, uncovering different dimensions of authenticity in order to catch and explain fundamental changes in New York that emerged in the 1960s under the mixed influences of private investors, government, media, and consumer tastes. The Journal of Economic Sociology published "Introduction. The City That Lost Its Soul," where the author explains the general idea of the book. She discusses the reasons for the emergence and history of the social movement for authenticity, having combated both the government and private investors since the 1960s. Prof. Zukin also traces the transformation of the concept of authenticity from a property of a person, to a property of a thing, to a property of a life experience and power.