cbd office meaningDecember 15, 2021
A Central Business District (CBD) is a city’s focal point or business and commercial center. The area is characterized by a concentration of commercial land use with a high number of commercial offices, retail shops, and services such as finance and banking. The CBD is also the cultural and transportation center of the city. The city’s history is almost always reflected by the type and shape of its central business district. Some megacities, especially in Asia, have more than one CBD scattered across the city. However, each CBD is unique in terms of their spatial shape. Terms such as the financial district, downtown, and city center are sometimes used to refer to the CBD.
In ancient cities, the CBDs developed from market squares. During market days, consumers, merchants, and farmers would meet at the center of the city to conduct their businesses and buy goods. Slowly, the market place would grow and become proper urban centers. As the city grew and developed, an area would be designated as the CBD where commercial and retail took place. In most cases, the CBD would be restricted to the oldest part of the city or near major transportation routes such as railroad or highway. With time, the CBD evolved into a financial center and also a center for government and other important offices. In the early 20th century, cities in America and Europe had CBDs that were primarily retail and commercial centers. However, by the mid-20th century, the CBDs had expanded to include office spaces and commercial businesses. Skyscrapers replaced the old buildings.
The CBD is more about perception as it has no particular boundary. There have been attempts to delineate boundaries of the CBD in vein. Most people can instinctively or visually see where the area starts and ends. In Australia, CBD refers to an area in state capital cities with a high concentration of skyscrapers. In Canada, CBDs are referred to as downtowns highlighted by skyscrapers. Downtown Toronto is considered Canada’s largest CBD. In France, the phrase “quartier d’affaires” is used to describe a CBD while in Germany the terms “Stadtzentrum” and “Innenstadt” are used to describe the same.
Defining the CBD.
By the end of the 20th century, the urban area considered as the CBD had become generally diverse and a metropolitan area. CBDs have the highest concentration of land use with different specialist areas. The region is not only a retail and commercial center but also residential, entertainment, medical, government, cultural, and financial center. Today, experts such as lawyers, doctors, financiers, directors, bureaucrats, and government officials have their workplaces or offices in the city center or CBD. The combination of the residential area and shopping malls have given CBDs new life. One can now shop, be entertained, eat, and sleep within the CBD. Some of the CBDs across the world operate 24 hours, with nightlife commonly characterized by entertainment. However, they are still far more populated during the day. The largest CBDs are located in big cities of a country, mostly the capital and largest cities.
History of the CBD.
Learn and explore the fundamental concepts of urban planning.
In recent years, central business districts have also provided the theater for planning innovations like dynamic parking pricing, congestion pricing, and car-free areas, and, in some cases, a growing residential population. The addition of residential population to the CBDs of many cities has itself been a hugely significant planning innovation of recent years.
Other distinctions lend more variation and subtlety to the definition of a CBD. In many cities, the CBD is distinct from the cultural or historic core. In some cities these other kind of urban cores overlap partially or completely with the CBD. Other cities have more than one CDB. Regions will often include more than one CBD, and in some regions, the CBD will cross multiple jurisdictions. The technicalities of these distinctions are why central business districts are generally considered distinct from the broader term “downtown,” which might include more historically residential neighborhoods or CBD-adjacent historic and cultural centers of the city.
The central business district, referred to frequently by its abbreviation, CBD, is a key term in planning because of its importance to so many intersecting issues of the city—the success of the local and regional economy, the movement of goods and people, the life and culture of cities, and more. CBDs will vary greatly between cities, with the transit oriented bustle of New York and San Francisco at one extreme, the more auto-oriented sprawl of Jacksonville and Riverside at the other, and many variations in between. The unique characteristics of different central business districts are influenced by development history, economic history, local and national politics, and culture, among other factors.
A central business district is exactly what it sounds like—the area of densely concentrated commercial activity that forms a core of economic and population density in a city or region. In some cities, the central business district will also be called the financial district, but that’s usually true in cities where the financial industry has a large footprint in the downtown office market. Central business districts usually include numerous kinds of business and commercial ventures—all of which are likely paying a premium to set up shop at the center of the economic action.
What Is a Central Business District (CBD)?
Paris (pictured here) and Mexico City are two global cities where the historic and cultural center of the city has been preserved and a central business district has grown in a different part of the city. | VLADJ55 / Shutterstock.
For the sake of data collection and official definition, the U.S. Census Bureau publishes American Community Survey data that can be used to compare and contrast CBDs around the country. Although the U.S. Census Bureau ended its official program to define CBDs by census tract in the early 1980s, analysts at think tanks like the Brookings Institution have since created their own methodologies for defining CBDs. As evidenced by a study published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the journal Cityscape in 2019 , the question of how to define CBDs for the purpose of statistical analysis is the source of ongoing debate.
A branding identity around the local CBD is a common economic development tool—an effort to attract businesses and residents to the area and also provide a steady economic base for the rest of the city and region. Beyond branding, CBDs are frequently associated with an extra layer of cultural and political prominence, in addition to economic clout, in some, but not all, cities. It’s no coincidence that in many cities (but again, not all), the city’s skyline is most recognizable as a symbol of the city because of the buildings located in the CBD.
A central business district (CBD) is a geographic area sometimes referred to as downtown, but with key distinctions critical to an understanding of city and regional planning.
Finally, and critically, central business districts are neighborhoods—a specific and significant variety of neighborhood, but a neighborhood nonetheless.