Top Ten Largest CBDs in the USA

Image of New York City’s skyline as the sun is rising. The actual sunrise is obscured by the skyline, packed with the central business district’s skyscrapers, but sunlight is streaming down one street. Image at

All over the United States, central business districts serve as a magnet for economic growth and employment. In this article, we offer an updated overview of the top 10 largest CBDs in the country, accounting for the changes that CBDs have experienced post-2020.

1. New York City

New York City’s CBD is the largest in the country and covers a large area in Midtown and downtown Manhattan.

The city’s CBD contains nearly 420 million square feet of office real estate, with the biggest clusters being in Grand Central, Penn Station, Sixth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, Financial East, and World Trade Center.

The main driver of office lease transactions in early 2024 was the financial services sector with a 30% share of all transactions, along with gains in jobs in the information services and the TAMI sector (which had a 24% share), followed by legal services (27%).

In addition, there are approximately 360 coworking and flex spaces across the city’s five boroughs, a figure that puts NYC in the top position nationwide.

2. Chicago

The US’s second largest central business district, Chicago’s city center (also known as The Loop) occupies an area of 1.58 square miles, covering the sub-markets of Central, East and West Loop, Michigan Avenue, Fulton Market, and River North. The area has a permanent population of approximately 46,000 people.

The Loop is a densely populated area and has a total commercial real estate inventory of nearly 144 million square feet, with the largest concentration being in West and Central Loop. Sectors like professional, finance and insurance, admin support, healthcare, and food services, along with growing tech specializations such as FinTech and HealthTech are the main drivers of commercial real estate activity.

The CBD has the country’s 3rd highest number of coworking spaces.

3. Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles, one of the largest CBDs in US, covers an area of nearly 6 square miles, although the business core lies between the Financial District, Historic Core, and Old Bank District. There are approximately 28 million square feet of commercial space and offices in downtown Los Angeles, vs. 211 million in the entire metro area.

The largest office-occupying sectors are private education, healthcare and social assistance, leisure and hospitality. Other important sectors include media, entertainment, and technology.

Los Angeles has the country’s 5th highest number of coworking spaces.

4. Boston

In 2024, Boston’s central business district was listed as the best startup hub in the United States. There are nearly 70 million square feet of office space, divided into 5 sub-markets: Financial District, Back Bay, Seaport, Midtown, and Fenway.

At the heart of the CBD is the city’s Business Improvement District, home to nearly one quarter of all the CBD’s office inventory. In addition, the CBD itself contains 50% of the city’s total office stock.

Healthcare, social services, professional scientific and technical industries, insurance, finance, government and education make up the bulk of CBD businesses.

Street side image towards Boston’s CBD skyline during the daytime. People are walking on the sidewalk, cars are driving down the street, and the tops of the CBD’s skyscrapers are obscured by fog. Image at

5. Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s central business district or Center City covers an area of 2 square miles and contains more than 42 million square feet of commercial real estate, split into two smaller sub-markets: East of Broad with 12 million square feet, and West of Broad, more than twice the size of the former.

The area has a daytime population of 326,000 people and more than 40% of all the city’s jobs are based here. Major industries include healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, and technology.

Philadelphia has the country’s 4th highest number of coworking spaces.

6. Washington D.C.

Washington’s central business district covers an area of approximately 2.6 square miles. The CBD comprises nearly 113 million square feet of office real estate, with the largest concentrations of offices being in East End, Capitol Hill, and NoMa. The CBD is also home to 3 business improvement districts: the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, Downtown DC and NoMa BID.

In addition to the public sector, key industries here include media, communications, and a strong STEM sector.

Washington has the country’s 2nd highest number of coworking spaces.

7. Detroit

Covering an area of 1.4 square miles and containing 17 million square feet of office inventory, Detroit has one of the largest central business districts in the Midwest outside of Chicago.

Approximately 76,000 people work in Detroit’s CBD, most of them in the district’s largest industry sectors like financial, legal, accounting, entertainment and hospitality, as well as a growing creative industry.

In 2022, the area ranked first in the list of emerging startup ecosystems at global level.

8. Seattle

Seattle’s central business district has a permanent population of approximately 9,000 people and approximately 51 million square feet of office space, with the largest cluster located in the Financial District, Lake Union, and Lower Queen Anne, and smaller sub-markets in Pioneer Square, the International District, and Denny Regrade.

Office occupancy is mainly driven by tech and online retail firms, although other major industries are well represented in the office market, including business services, real estate, and media.

9. San Francisco

Despite its relatively small size (0.5 square miles), San Francisco’s central business district concentrates a significant part of the city’s economic power: local businesses generate ¾ of the city’s total GDP. The area continues to add office-based jobs in finance, insurance, professional services, and IT and to attract venture capital funding in high-value sectors like generative AI.

There are 55 million square feet of office space in the CBD, and declining rental rates make it an attractive location for businesses with limited capital but in search of an established location.

10. Houston

Houston’s central business district is the place of work for more than 150,000 people and is home to over 3,000 businesses.

The CBD occupies an area of 1.8 miles and is home to 38 million square feet of office space.

Despite the trend towards diversification and mixed use environments, office-using sectors predominate in the CBD, especially in energy, finance, legal, and engineering.