Business improvement districts: Untold stories and substantiated impacts

Lorlene M Hoyt, University of Pennsylvania


Business improvement districts (BIDs) are a popular contemporary phenomenon. Proponents contend that BIDs restore a city's competitive advantage by attracting investors, visitors, and residents into more secure public spaces. Yet, despite their proliferation, empirical research on the formation and impact of BIDs is nonexistent. Relying on Philadelphia's BID population, this study poses such research questions as: How do BIDs vary with respect to formation, organizational structure, geographical size, budget and service provision? Do BIDs decrease crime as measured by clustering? If so, which BID services decrease crime? The multi-method quantitative-qualitative research design includes case study and multiple regression analyses. First, data gathered from personal interviews and public hearing transcripts allow the construction of descriptive BID portraits as well as detailed comparisons of BID characteristics. Second, a customized geographic information system (GIS) containing data from the Philadelphia Police Department, Planning Commission, and US Census Bureau allow a sophisticated examination of the relationship between BIDs and crime. While most studies concerning the spatial distribution of crime use census tract level data, this one relies on new a spatio-temporal method whereby the individual crime event serves as the unit of analysis. Results show that Philadelphia's BIDs differ from their national counterparts in that they are younger, administratively smaller, geographically larger, and rely more heavily on work done by volunteers. The collective impact of BIDs on crime is measurable and significant. Evidence from a series of regression models shows that BIDs decrease property crime and that BID security services have a deterrent effect on crime clusters. Findings contribute to planning literature and practice by providing empirical research on BIDs and demonstrating the use of GIS for rigorous analyses.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Public administration|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Hoyt, Lorlene M, "Business improvement districts: Untold stories and substantiated impacts" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3031670.