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Imagining Urban Futures Programme working paper

This working paper is part of the Imagining Urban Futures Programme working paper series

‘Clean, safe and friendly’: Wisconsin's Business Improvement Districts

Kevin Ward


Using the example of Business Improvement Districts in Wisconsin, this paper argues for a greater appreciation of complexity, diversity and difference within this model of downtown governance that hitherto has been acknowledged. It contends that this is not just a case of knowing more about places beyond so-called ‘paradigmatic cities’. It is also about thinking through what this knowledge might reveal about how we theorize the politics of urban development. Drawing on fieldwork in Wisconsin, it uses two examples, those of Appleton and Sheboygan, to examine the types of activities performed by Business Improvement Districts beyond the likes of New York, Philadelphia and Washington. The paper concludes by arguing that in the case of Business Improvement Districts there is a need to pay attention to the diversity within wealthier Western nations, as part of a more general cosmopolitanizing of urban theory.

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