The View that CBD is No Longer the Economic Center

Cities are considered the engines for innovation and growth within a nation. While all cities possess similar key functions, only well planned cities organize themselves to maximize their economic and social potential. They ensure they have well-structured governance, proper transport networks, accommodating housing densities, as well as skills that can enhance development. The Central Business Districts (CBD) in well-organized cities undergo various growth over time. However, in recent times, the reverse has been observed to be true; most CBDs are no longer the economic centers as various economic activities get developed in the outskirts of the cities. This has been contributed by various factors including the structural models and land uses adopted for the cities.

The adopted structural model to plan for the construction of CBDs is the major cause of the deteriorating economic activities in the areas. Most cities had been planned under the concentric ring model which was proposed by Ernest Burgess. The model subdivides land uses in the CBD into rings, known as zones. The inner zone (A) represents the central business district which should then be followed by industries and poor quality housing in zone (B) (Codrington 541). This should then be followed by a zone (C) containing housing for the working class then followed by middle-class housing in the fourth zone (D). The residential suburbs and commuter zone is in the outermost zone (E) (Codrington 541). Although the model consider significant urban dynamics, it had been oversimplified. It never considered transport routes, land forms, or any changes that are witnessed today. Due to the existing space in the outskirts (outer zone), new developments are currently witnessed in such areas, thus, encouraging people to abandon the congested CBD.

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An example of a city that has witnessed decrease in economic activities within its CBD is Sydney. There has been a growing success in the suburban shopping centers as indicated by the reducing retail turnover within the CBD from 50% in the 1950s to 8% in 2000s (Wade n.p). The wealth and economic growth of the CBD has spread from the gentrified east of the CBD towards the suburbs in the north. Additionally, the existing space in the zone E including existing airports and better road networks has encouraged the development of high tech industries of Macquarie University and Macquarie Park together with other institutions and business centers.

The existing transport networks outside the CBD has promoted outsider economic growth. With better transportation networks such as roads and railway systems, people tend to avoid the congestion in the CBD to relocate to suburban areas where there is more space for development (Spearritt 243). This has been witnessed in Sydney; since the electrification of the railway network, the transport system has served the CBD and encouraged people to move to Garden Suburbs as they escape the congested inner city (Wade n.p). As such, suburbs in the state have experienced growth in shopping malls and apartment development indistinguishable from the city center (Spearritt 243). As one stands at the Olympic structures in Homebush, one is able to see succession of small cities including the ground towers, Chatswood, Hornsby, and Leonards where high rise buildings can be observed.

Amidst the fact that CBD is no longer congested and attract a lot of economic activities, there are cities that still consider these areas fundamental economic growth areas. This is majorly influenced by the initial structural model used to plan for such area in order to attract various activities. In the case where a city plans its CBD using Harris and Ullman’s model of multiple nuclei, economic investments also increases over time. In such a model, land uses are arranged in patches throughout the city; activities such as factories and shops cluster together for mutual benefit (Codrington 540). Other incompatible land uses such as heavy industry and residential lands are not located near each other, and instead, locate in the edges of the city where the land is chap. Land uses such as offices and high-class residential areas will also be located close to the CBD where land price is high. Such arrangement has been observed in Melbourne where free space exists in the CBD (Batty 24). This encourages businesses to expand into larger areas like Southbank and Docklands that experience growth at 15%; more entrepreneurial opportunities have also been permitted due to the moderated prices at the CBD (Milman n.p). Large firms have taken advantage of the affordable land in the CBD; companies like NAB integrate their “backoffice” function with headquarters activities in Docklands, thus, encouraging productivity and centralized economic growth.

Due to the easy access to Melbourne CBD, many economic activities have been promoted. The transport system in the city allows for easy movement through the area; bus lanes can easily be accessed by the people. On the left side of the CBD streets, the lanes are painted in red including the Lonsdale Street, Queen Street, and Spring Street. Some of the bus lanes function 24 hours a day while other on morning and afternoon peak hours (Milman n.p). There are also railway stations within the Melbourne CBD; these include the Flinders Street Station, Southern Cross Station, Flagstaff Station, Melbourne Central Station and Parliament Station. Such ease of movement encourage development of shopping centers and other businesses in the CBD. There are various activities found in Melbourne that has encouraged the growth of the city population and GDP. Such include tourist attraction centers such as the Federation Square, Immigration museum, Luna Park, Eureka Skydeck, and the Chinese museum. Because of the accessibility, there are still evident economic centers within the Melbourne CBD ranging from Brandon Park located at the Corner Springvale Road and Wheelers Hills to Chadstone, Eastland, Highpoint, Knox City, and the Pines located in Reynolds Road.

Amidst the changing development around the CBD, they are still significant areas for economic activities. The city of Melbourne, for instance, continues to experience growth because of its structure. As modelled by Harris and Ullman, the land uses within the CBD are arranged in patches; activities such as factories and shops cluster while others like residential areas are located at the edge of the CBD. This form of arrangement enhances movement within the CBD and at the same time reduces congestion. Poor planning, however, has made some CBD to deteriorate in development over time. As observed, Sydney faced with the challenge due to its initial concentric ring model plan. This arrangement encourages congestion within the CBD and increases prices of business investment; as such, many entrepreneurs opt to invest in the suburbs. There is, therefore, a need to create a balance in the development of the cities and ensure land use is compatible to development. This will prevent congestion and high land prices witnessed currently, thus, encouraging economic investment.


Works Cited

Batty, Michael. Cities and Complexity: Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models, and Fractals. The MIT press, 2007.

Codrington, Stephen. Planet Geography. Sydney: Solid Star Press, 2005. Print.

Milman, Oliver. Melbourne’s Population is Australia’s Fastest Growing, says ABS. April, 2014. The Guardian.

Spearritt, Peter. Sydney’s Century: A History. Sydney: UNSW Press, 1999. Print.

Wade, Matt. Why Sydney Is on Course to Lose its Status as Austrralia’s Biggest City. The Sydney Morning Herald. April, 2014.