Academic journal article URISA Journal

Polycentric Urban Dynamics-Heterogeneous Developers under Certain Planning Restrictions

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Polycentric Urban Dynamics-Heterogeneous Developers under Certain Planning Restrictions

Article excerpt


Classical models of urban spatial structure (Alonso 1964, Mills 1967, Muth 1969) depict cities as monocentric. They view real cities at a crude resolution only. To this end, they utilize average densities (Alperovich and Deutsch 2000). In these models, people and activities compete for space and locations in terms of proximity to a single city center. The competition leads to monotonically declining land rents and density from the central business district (CBD) outward (Fujita 1989). Such models are hard-pressed to explain the formation of modern cities with the typical polycentric structure.

Recent research concerned with urban spatial dynamics suggests that discontinuity in space and nonuniformity in time are prominent characteristics of modern urban development (Benguigui et al. 2001a, 2001b, 2004a, 2004b, 2006). Thus, for example, the footprint of the built area in the Tel Aviv conurbation displays discontinuity that appears as a result of apparent leapfrogging (see Figure 1).


Furthermore, the evolution of high-rise buildings represents evidence contrary to the monocentric paradigm. There is some evidence that clustering of high-rise buildings over time is weakening (Golan 2009). Quantitative measures indicate that no single urban center of attraction is present in the city (Czamanski and Roth 2011). Moreover, new high-rise building clusters seem to arise over time in zones previously not intensively developed (Golan 2009).

In an effort to explain the apparent discontinuities in the spatial evolution of built areas, we argue that the polycentric structure results from the behavior of developers that incorporate the preferences of consumers (Henderson et al. 2008) together with measures taken by planning authorities. The planning actions consist of land-use plans intended to prevent unwanted urban development in areas reserved for nature, parks, recreation, and agriculture (Furst et al. 2010). The effectiveness of land-use plans is related to the ability of planning boards to withstand the pressure of developers to convert land that is not intended for development and was purchased by developers at a low market price into high-proceeds developable land (Lai et al. 2008). While the ability of developers to influence planning boards and to obtain planning variances varies among countries, it is a universal phenomenon. As we shall demonstrate in this paper, the resistance of planning boards is directly responsible for sprawl in the form of leapfrogging.

The overall purpose of this paper is to incorporate planning decisions into an agent-based simulation model that yields realistic urban spatial structures. It is our claim that the combined effect of urban planning policies and regulations and the choices of developers searching for real estate projects can explain much of the urban spatiotemporal evolution. Firm characteristics, and in particular the time impatience of land developers, interacts with time-related municipal development strategies and, in turn, affects the urban spatial structure dynamics.

The rest of this paper consists of three more sections. The next section contains a description of our model. The following section present results of model simulations. The last section presents discussion of our results and suggestions for future research.


We present an agent-based model with two main types of agents. Planning authority sets rules concerning the location and intensity of developable land. We assume that planning building restrictions grow with distance from the central business district (CBD). These restrictions are expressed as a monotonically increasing function of the time required for obtaining construction permits as the distance from the CBD increases. From the developers' point of view, this is the time between the acquisition of property rights and the realization of returns. …

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