This article presents an overview of the burgeoning literature on business improvement districts (BID) by highlighting its historical underpinnings, identifying the economic and political factors that explain its transnational proliferation, and demonstrating how the model varies within and across nations. It also provides a balanced review of the key debates associated with this relatively new urban revitalization strategy by asking the following questions: Are BIDs democratic? Are BIDs accountable? Do BIDs create wealth-based inequalities in the delivery of public services? Do BIDs create spillover effects? Do BIDs over-regulate public space?