Turkey's step-by-step embedding in the institutional and policy environment of the EU is currently compelling the country to establish a fitting structure of regional governance. A key element in this structure is the creation of regions at the NUTS-II level which will be equipped with Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). Yet the present political and economic situation in Turkey throws some doubt on the scope and future for RDA development. To what extent will the central state be able and willing to devolve authority and resources to the local level? And to what extent do regional institutional and business settings hold fertile ground for RDA development? The article will address these questions, first, by focusing on the broader political-institutional context of region and RDA formation; and, second, through a detailed case-study of one regional setting, namely Istanbul. The outcomes indeed point to a fragile basis for RDA development from both political and economic perspectives. However, they also help identify certain areas where RDAs, in a more bottom-up way, could help to fill serious gaps in the fabric of regional economic development, and may find external resources to do so.