This article examines the ways in which business improvement districts are being introduced into UK cities. In advancing this analysis, the focus here is on the means through which one or two Manhattan business improvement districts have been constructed as ‘models’ of urban management, taken out of their particular local/regional and national contexts and introduced into a diverse set of local political economic contexts in UK cities and towns. Examining the way business improvement districts have become a policy in motion, the article sketches out the emergence of entrepreneurial urban governance arrangements in the UK as part of the state's changing spatiality in the industrialized economies of Western Europe and North America. I argue that these changes make UK cities and towns increasingly receptive to the business improvement district model of downtown management. Seeking to move beyond the sometimes rather one-sided representations of policies that find themselves on the move, the article seeks to connect the ‘exporting’ and ‘importing’ zones of policy transfer, arguing for an open and permeable conceptualization of these places. It draws on work in Manhattan, New York to unpack the nature of the political–economic relations that business improvement districts were part of, before moving on to examine the dynamics of policy transfer and the early days of the introduction of this downtown ‘model’ into UK cities.