Associated with the rapid economic development of China, the level of urbanization is becoming a serious concern. Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province, China and one of the political, economic, cultural, and transportation centers of the northeastern region of China, has experienced rapid urbanization recently. To examine the spatial patterns of long-term urbanization and explore its driving forces, we employed the impervious surface fraction derived from remote sensing image as a primary indicator. Specifically, urban impervious surface information for the central city of Harbin in 1984, 1993, 2002, and 2010 was extracted from Landsat Thematic Mapper image using a Linear Spectral Mixture Analysis (LMSA). Then, the spatial and temporal variation characteristics and the driving factors of percent impervious surface area (ISA) changes were analyzed throughout this 26-year period (1984 to 2010). Analysis of results suggests that: (1) ISAs in the central city of Harbin constantly increased, particularly from 1993 to 2010, a rapid urbanization period; (2) the gravity center of impervious surface area in the central city was located in Nangang District in 1984, moving southeast from 1984 to 1993, northwest from 1993 to 2002, and continuing toward the southeast from 2002 to 2010; and (3) the urban growth of the central city can be characterized as edge-type growth.