To achieve a world-class city capable of attracting business in a competitive global
market, the municipal government of Cape Town, South Africa, like many cities of the global North, has adopted a model of urban revitalization popularized by New York City: business or city improvement districts (BIDs or CIDs). By examining CIDs in city center Cape Town, the paper casts light on the socio-spatial relationship facilitating the neoliberal post-apartheid regime and its governance. Analyzing discursive and spatial practices of Cape Town Partnership, the managing body of downtown CIDs, from 2000 to 2006, the paper reveals its difficulties in stabilizing the socio-spatial relations of a transnationalizing urban revitalization strategy and rejects the view of CIDS as simply a global roll-out of neoliberal urban policies. It highlights how CIDs are challenged from both within and outside of their managing structures by contentious local issues, and in particular by vast social inequalities and citizens’ historical struggle for inclusive citizenship and the right to the city. Whether and how CIDs’ inherent limitations can be overcome to address socio-spatial inequalities is an open question.
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