Urban containment and central-city revitalization

Arthur C. Nelson, Raymond J. Burby, Edward Feser, Casey J. Dawkins, Emil E. Malizia, Roberto Quercia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Planners throughout the 20th century have advocated containment of urban sprawl through a variety of means. Urban containment is incorporated into the growth management programs of several states, and growth management policies exist in at least 95 metropolitan areas. One objective of containment is to concentrate development within areas that are already urbanized, particularly in central cities. In this article, we examine the effects of the first round of urban containment programs (adopted prior to 1985) on the amount of development activity taking place in central cities and on the ratio of central-city to metropolitan-area development activity. Our findings indicate that central cities in contained metropolitan areas are attracting more development activity than cenral cities in uncontained areas. However, suburban areas in both contained and uncontained metropolitan areas continue to grow. We surmise that containment shifts development from exurban and rural areas to suburban and urban ones because of containment boundaries. One potential limitation of our ordinary least squares (OLS) regression modeling is that the relationship between containment and development activity may be multidirectional. That is, since central cities in metropolitan areas with higher growth rates in previous years are more likely to adopt policies to constrain future growth, containment programs may affect and be affected by the rate of central-city residential construction activity.1 Although we control for this fact to some degree by restricting our definition of the presence of urban containment to those metropolitan areas that adopted policies prior to the study period, any correlation between lagged construction rates and current construction rates would reintroduce the problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-425
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Urban containment and central-city revitalization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this