Understanding Business Improvement Districts: A New Governance Framework


Göktuğ Morçöl is an associate professor of public administration and policy at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. His research focuses on metropolitan governance, business improvement districts, and applications of complexity theory in public policy analysis.

James F. Wolf is a professor at Virginia Tech's Center for Public Administration and Policy. His current research focuses on metropolitan governance organizations. Most recently, he has examined the roles of voluntary regional councils and business improvement districts.


What is the current state of research on business improvement districts (BIDs)? What is an appropriate framework for analysis? What are key questions for advancing future BID research? BIDs can be understood best within a network governance framework. The research shows, first, a blurring of the line between the public and private spheres as a result of BIDs; second, BIDs are increasingly important actors in urban governance; third, BIDs engage in collaborative, conflictual, and co-optative relations with local and state governments; and fourth, difficult accountability and management problems are created by their interdependent relationships with local governments. Future research needs to focus on understanding the role of BIDs in urban governance and assessing their impacts on metropolitan areas, as well as their inherently complicated public accountability and management challenges.