||Large Cities Got Larger Despite Downturn
The urban renaissance that blossomed in boom years during the past two decades is flourishing even more despite the economic downturn and housing slump, which kept more Americans away from suburbs and closer to major job centers.
The nation's largest cities are growing faster than the country as a whole, according to July 1, 2011, population estimates released by the Census Bureau.
All but two (Baltimore and Detroit) of the 33 cities that have 500,000-plus people grew since 2010. Ten years earlier, six of the 30 cities with half a million or more were declining.
Of the 100 most-populous cities, almost three-fourths are growing at or above the national average of 0.9%.
"In short, cities are starting this decade in a stronger growth position than in the 2000s," says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution.
New York City, the nation's largest, grew almost at the U.S. rate (0.9%), adding 69,000.
"In the 1960s and 1970s, economic downturns used to impact the central city more than its suburbs," says Robert Lang, professor of urban affairs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "Now the reverse is true."
Several forces are at play: fewer households with children, the high cost of energy and commuting and "a redefinition of lifestyle that places a premium on urban amenities," Lang says.
Growth slowed the most in the Sun Belt, especially in areas hard hit by the housing bust and foreclosures, Frey says. They include places such as Henderson, Nev.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Fresno.
Larger cities such as Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and Washington, D.C., experienced a surge last year.
"Some of these areas are holding on to (people) who normally would have gone to the suburbs in a better housing market," Frey says. "The question is whether this will continue when the suburban housing market improves."
Lang thinks it will but that suburbs also will grow again -- especially those that offer urban conveniences such as mass transit and housing within walking distance of jobs and services.
His analysis of 76 Sun Belt suburbs that boomed to populations of 100,000 or more in recent decades -- what he calls "boomburbs" -- shows that those that have rail lines gained more people. The 43 with rail service, including Plano, Texas, and Tempe, Ariz., grew more than those without. Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb, has a rail line and grew 2.24%. Westminster, Colo., another Denver suburb which has yet to have rail, grew only 1.75%, Lang says. Mass transit has spurred dense development around stations.
"In the last decade, boomburbs grew one way: out," Lang says. "This decade, large suburban cities can grow up around station stops."
• Chicago, which was losing an average 20,000 people a year from 2000 to 2010, added more than 11,000 to 2.7 million.
"With the onset of the recession, domestic migration to the outer suburbs ended," says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute.
A similar pattern is emerging in the Boston area. The city gained almost three times more people from 2010 to 2011 than it did every year on average the previous decade and grew faster than its suburbs, Johnson says.
"A short-term phenomenon," he says. "I expect to see growth in the outer suburban areas pick up again."
• New Orleans was the fastest-growing large city, with a 5% gain to 360,740. Despite that, the city still has only about three-fourths of its population before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
• Midwestern cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Buffalo slid in the rankings.
Denver rose three spots to 23rd, passing Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Nashville. Austin jumped past San Francisco to 13th.
• College towns and state capitals are faring well. Of 25 selected small cities with universities, all but one (Grand Forks, N.D.) grew. All but four (Trenton, N.J., Albany, N.Y., Augusta, Maine, Charleston, W.Va.) of the 50 state capitals grew.
(Source: USA Today, 06/28/12)
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