The Post-Pandemic Central Business District (CBD): Re-Imagining the Creative City?

Publication Name

Urban Policy and Research


After central business districts (CBD) emptied from COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and widespread working-from-home, culture and creativity feature prominently within recovery strategies, enrolling the arts and events to enliven urban precincts and attract people back into city centres. We draw upon resilience theory and creative city policymaking to critique present formulations of CBD revitalisation, and suggest alternatives. Despite overtures to social inclusion and environmental sustainability, revitalisation strategies mobilise pre-existing “vehicular ideas” that support corporate business interests in and claims on central city space. We articulate concerns around inclusivity, financial and property interests, creativity as consumption rather than production, livelihood concerns, and underwhelming acknowledgement of pandemic disruption. Instead of placing creativity in service of the competitive positioning of the CBD, we ask: what is the very purpose of the post-pandemic CBD, and who is the CBD for? Answering these questions invitesmore courageous propositions that seize once-in-a-generation opportunities for transformational change.

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