Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Downtown Is Becoming a Place"

This is the news we've been waiting for: "In many of the largest cities of the most-populous metro areas, downtown is becoming a place not only to work but also to live."

That announcement is not coming from mayors or urban developers, but from the Census Bureau in a detailed report on metropolitan growth trends. Along with the report, the Census Bureau has released a data file with population density by distance to city hall for every metropolitan area. Wow!

"Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, metro areas with 5 million or more people experienced double-digit population growth rates within their downtown areas (within a two-mile radius of their largest city's city hall), more than double the rate of these areas overall," says the Census Bureau. Those words confirm what many have been witnessing--an ongoing urban renaissance as younger Americans flee far-flung suburbs and rural areas for urban centers. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people aged 18 to 24 expanded by 15 percent in metropolitan areas, increased by only 6 percent in the nation's smaller cities, and fell 0.7 percent in nonmetro areas.

The resurgence of urban centers is rooted in economics. Not only do young (and middle-aged) adults face dwindling employment prospects in nonmetropolitan areas, but the Internet has made them aware of the alternatives. Who woulda thunk it? Just a few years ago, the pundits were pontificating about how the Internet would allow us to hole up in our rural outpost and still earn a living. Instead, the Internet has revealed the creative energy, networking power, and economic opportunity of the nation's cities.

Source: Census Bureau, Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010

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