As I’ve always enjoyed aggregating data and trends across major cities, I thought I would take a stab at creating a resource for every major city’s downtown residential population. First, I excluded cities where the extent of downtown is truly indistinguishable from the rest of the city, such as D.C., San Francisco, or even Charleston or Savannah. Secondly, this is totally apples to oranges. Indianapolis defines their downtown as 5-6 square miles, whereas Cleveland defines their downtown as merely 2-3 square miles, while still yet Austin may define it as just a few blocks in either direction of Congress Avenue.
To understand how the numbers were derived, I have hyperlinked the source for each city. The sources are usually the local downtown business improvement district (BID) or similar organization. I used the MSA population for the Metro in all except for a few instances in which there really is a concise urbanized area (for instance San Jose and San Francisco, or Cleveland and Akron, are more intertwined than Columbus and Zanesville, OH).
The Census bureau has begun tracking downtown residential populations, which will lead to higher-quality data in coming years on this topic. The Census bureau has noted that these areas exhibit some of the highest population increases in the nation, in an article from 2012. Another imperfect way of solving the same riddle involves comparing populations inside mile increments, assuming that the first mile is the downtown population, the first five miles are typically surrounding inner city neighborhoods, and so on. However, this is imperfect as many downtowns are legitimately larger in area.
So while it’s not perfect, hopefully it is still interesting and useful, and without further ado, here it is:
|DOWNTOWN RESIDENTIAL METRICS: METROS OVER 1 MILLION|
|City (Source)||Downtown Pop||2015 City Pop||% of City||Metro Pop||% of Metro||Fixed-Guideway Transit|
|Dallas||13,041||1,300,092||1%||7,102,000||0.0018||DART, TRE, Streetcar|
|Los Angeles||58,702||3,971,883||1%||13,340,000||0.0044||LA Metro|
|Salt Lake City||5,000||192,672||3%||1,170,000||0.0043||TRAX|
By this metric, it is worth pointing out a unique class of cities with over 10% of their city population in their downtown. Some cities get here by virtue of having a smallish city relative to the metro, while others get here by having truly maximized centrally-located dwelling space. These cities are Seattle, Philadelphia, Orlando, Minneapolis, Miami, and Denver. Philadelphia’s CBD is the nation’s second-most populous CBD, after Midtown Manhattan, and Center City Philly is truly in a class of its own when compared to any other 4-square mile area of almost any other city. This includes similarly-sized metros such as Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, etc.
4% appears to the divide between the next tier of cities – most of these cities have surging downtown populations, and many could cross the 10% threshold with a few more years like the last ten or so. These cities are St. Louis, Sacramento, Richmond, Portland, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Chicago’s CBD has the second-highest plurality on this list of cities (which drops when you add NYC submarkets), and while the broader Chicagoland region looks more like most Midwestern metros, the region still checks in at 5% which is noteworthy for a metro of 10 million (compared to LA).
Lastly, there are a tremendous number of cities that show 1%. These are often cities that think they have a uniquely fast-developing downtown living city, but really they need to take a look around them. I can attest that OKC and Ft. Worth in particular seem to think they are unique for having downtown revitalization, and many people in Ft. Worth (who clearly don’t make it past Tarrant County often) think it somehow differentiates them from Dallas, which now has 150,000 people living in the neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown Dallas. Ft. Worth and OKC both have great downtowns, but like many other cities in the 1-4% range, their downtown is not as developed as others – which is an opportunity!
All of this said, only two cities have a ratio that rounds down to 0%. Jacksonville and Houston, do better!