Last edited 17 Apr 2021

Central business district (CBD)

Canary wharf.jpg

A central business district (CBD) is the commercial and business centre of a city, often referred to as the ‘financial district’. Although many cities share their CBD with the ‘city centre’, the concepts differ, since the latter is the area of a city where significant commerce, political, cultural and power is concentrated.

CBDs traditionally developed in historic cities as the market square where there would be trade and other business activities. This would typically be in the geographic centre of the a settlement. However, as cities grew and became more populous, CBDs became a more fixed location where retail and commerce took place, often in an area away from the centre, in what are sometimes termed ‘edge cities’, e.g. Canary Wharf in London (top image).

This distance from the centre of a city to a CBD can be due to strong preservation laws and maximum building height restrictions that seek to preserve the historic character of the centre, e.g. Paris and Vienna. In the 21st century megacities of Asia, it is quite common for there to be several CBDs located across an urban area.

Some of the key characteristics of CBDs include:

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