Urban sprawl is one of the major issues regarding sustainable urban development. In response to concerns about sprawl, compact development strategies have been proposed to promote sustainable development. However, a compact development approach needs to pay attention to the crucial question of commercial profitability. The aim of this article is to inquire into the commercial profitability of compact development strategies by developing different scenarios and to put forward ways to control urban sprawl through certain spatial strategies in the Istanbul case. The results indicate that the current planning approach is not effective in reducing sprawl without setting certain spatial strategies by which development activity is restricted, or imposing additional requirements for new development in certain areas. It is found that urban sprawl can be reduced by up to 62 per cent through setting certain spatial strategies and that uncontrolled urban sprawl might feasibly be shifted from peripheral to central areas.