In urban development practices throughout Europe, there is a recurring need for new perspectives that provide insight into the complexity involved in the realization of projects. This need exists particularly around prestigious projects, where the tension between planning ambitions on the one hand and the reality of conflicting interests and tight budgets on the other, reaches its highest point. In the Netherlands, it is also likely that this tension will not decrease in the coming years. This is a sufficient reason for an investigation into strategies for urban development projects. This publication combines several existing scientific insights around the phenomenon 'strategy'. Here, strategy is recognized as force. The term 'force' emphasizes that a strategy, as opposed to a plan, provides those involved with the capacity to respond to the continuously changing reality of an urban development project. Thus, an effective strategy not only consists of making plans, but also includes three other strategic activities: venturing, learning and visioning. These insights are then specified on the basis of the remarkable case of Rotterdam CityPorts - a project between city and port in which political and economic forces are especially amplified. It leads the author to develop a comprehensible theoretical model that reflects the complexity occurring in the realization of contemporary urban development projects. This strategy-as-force model is useful for both scientists and practitioners.