Hit by nice Berg, census reeling

Portland Model City?

Steve Berg gets my nomination for King of Urbanists in the Twin Cities.  A talented writer, I consider him the most eloquent Minnesotan activist for safer, more inclusive streets, smart density, and mixing uses.

He’s been writing lately about the 2010 census results (2 more census articles than either of the local newspapers, by the way), and while I agree with his conclusion – municipalities in the Twin Cities need to do a better job of encouraging dense, transit-oriented growth as well as transit for the growth to orient to – I’ve been a bit irked about his decision to compare us to the same three cities of Denver, Seattle and Portland.

Portland annexation map

Portland does a great job encouraging growth along transit lines in developed areas, but it also has a dirty secret:  The greenfield area around Powell Butte was a significant contributor to the city’s growth.  As Portland’s annexation map makes clear, it has annexed land as recently as the early 90s, and plans to eventually annex the entirety of its urban growth boundary.  That means that Portland has as much in common with Forest Lake as it does with Minneapolis.

The population growth in the Powell Butte area accounted for a greater share of the city’s growth than the downtown area – although downtown had a higher growth rate and is a smaller area.  Still, it’s not really fair to ask a city that has been built out for decades to grow as fast as a city that still has a greenfield advantage.

Denver is an even worse comparison, since its population was boosted by massive redevelopments of Air Force bases.  The Lowry and Stapleton developments added a cumulative 16,664 residents to the Mile High City, way more than Downtown Denver’s 9,815 added residents.  Those three areas account for more than half of the 45,000 residents that moved into Denver in the oughts – other areas of the city grew as well, but there were also substantial sections that declined, specifically the Highland area across the river from Downtown.  It doesn’t seem to me that Denver’s census change pattern deviates all that much from MSP, except that it grew a lot more:

Denver Population Change 2000-2010

Mpls-StP Population Change 2000-2010

These maps are from Data Pointed and I’m pretty sure they’re not to scale.

Edit:  Data Pointed apparently doesn’t like hosting images for my blog so for now you’ll have to find the maps yourself on that site.  I’ll maybe screen print the NY Times maps or grab them from Transport Politic this weekend – I live to serve.

Seattle, however, is a more fair comparison to Minneapolis-St Paul.  I wrote a few months ago about how it contains more recently-built suburban areas than Minneapolis, but not necessarily more than St Paul.  Still, it hasn’t annexed any land since the 50s, so there isn’t any greenfield development in the city proper.

There is no question Seattle has done a better job encouraging growth in the center city than Minneapolis.  If you look at their growth map, you see strong growth in the downtown and around the university, like the Twin Cities and most cities nationwide.  But you also see people moving into areas outside of downtown, such as Ballard, Northgate, and NewHolly – these growth areas were codified in their most recent comprehensive plan as Urban Villages, areas where a dense mix of uses will be encouraged.  It’s a similar concept to Minneapolis’ Activity Centers, but Seattle sets aggressive targets for job and residential growth in these clusters.

Seattle Population Change 2000-2010

So if only one of Berg’s three comparison cities is actually comparable, are there other cities that are more like the Twin Cities, if just so that we’re not adrift in a sea of relativism?  Let’s look to our neighbors, who are of a similar vintage, and who were similar choked off by the upper classes seeking their own municipalities safe from the votes of the teeming, ethnic masses.

Milwaukee, St Louis and Cleveland are of similar size, age and metropolitan structure, and at first glance Minneapolis and St Paul look good in comparison.  St Louis and Cleveland each lost tens of thousands of residents in the last decade, and Milwaukee lost about two thousand – eerily similar to the Twin Cities’ combined losses.  But the three rust belt cities also had population booms in their downtowns – all three had growth rates that surpassed Minneapolis and St Paul, and St Louis beat Minneapolis in absolute increase as well.

Downtown population change

Just for kicks, I’ll throw in this info for the cities Steve Berg likes to compare to the Twin Cities:

Downtown Population Change

You can, of course, find similarities and differences between most cities.  And certainly all of these cities are auto-dependent, Euclidian-zoned (although I think Denver is experimenting with a form-based code) and in the Anglo-American tradition.  And, honestly, Berg’s points hold up in all of them – the USA has a racial ghetto problem, and while it’s less pronounced in cities with smaller minority populations, the Twin Cities is one of several metro areas that have failed to handle this problem.  Denver seems to have the same problem, and I don’t think we should follow Seattle’s lead by exporting the ghetto to a different city (Tacoma, in Seattle’s case; we’ve already gotten a start on sending minorities to the Brooklyns).  Instead we should continue the Met Council’s work on increasing affordable housing opportunities in the suburbs.  Here is some data to back up these assertions:

Census race 2010

Because of the racist nature of American settlement patterns, it’s predictable that cities with greenfield development (Portland, Denver) would have a smaller percentage of minority populations.  Conversely, it may be that the Twin Cities, with relatively small central cities relative to suburbs, have actually done a better job than these “peer” cities of reducing minority concentration, although a large ghetto remains on the Northside and Minneapolis sure suffered for it in the 2010 census.

Steve Berg’s other point, that successful cities develop their transit systems and encourage dense growth around stations, is more supported by census data.  Looking at the percent of metro area growth that occurred downtown, it roughly corresponds with the level of transit investment, although Milwaukee is a major outlier.  Also the metric doesn’t work with metros like Cleveland that lost population, although the fact that the downtown nevertheless grew is a major triumph.

Downtown vs Metro population change 2000-2010

I’m going to put my spreadsheet out there for people to look at and build on.  This rambling entry is not meant to be the final word on anything, so feel free to engage in the discussion by tearing my points to shreds in the comments.  I’m going to add more and more stats to this spreadsheet and maybe eventually I’ll do a another post when I have a more complete picture.

downtown census pop

A note about the data here:  it is always debatable how to define unofficial geographic areas such as downtowns.  As you might expect, I have my own opinion about what constitutes  Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St Paul, but amazingly I don’t consider myself an expert on the neighborhood geography of other cities.  Therefore I’ve relied on others’ definitions, which I’ve referenced in the spreadsheet.  When I pulled the census data myself, I’ve referenced the census tracts I used, which usually didn’t correspond exactly with the downtown boundaries.  But then life itself is inexact.  As always, feel free to disagree, but if you do I ask you to specify your disagreement in the comments.

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19 comments on “Hit by nice Berg, census reeling

  1. Bill says:

    Great job, but the title is unforgiveable.

  2. Andrew says:

    Very interesting analysis, any chance you could tackle how Minneapolis compares to Chicago? Ways that MSP could grow as Chicago has and avoid the problems that plague the Metropolis?

    Keep up the great work

  3. alki says:

    I don’t think we should follow Seattle’s lead by exporting the ghetto to a different city (Tacoma, in Seattle’s case; we’ve already gotten a start on sending minorities to the Brooklyns).

    Cheap shot! Seattle and Tacoma are two very separate cities that grew up independently of each other and for different reasons. Tacoma has a slightly higher concentration of blacks than Seattle….. 12% vs 8%…most likely because Tacoma sits right next to a large military base and blacks make up a higher proportion of this country’s military than they do the general population.

    What sets Seattle and Tacoma most apart is their industry mix. Seattle has a much greater concentration of tech. Its why both Seattle and Bellevue, another tech haven, are leaving Tacoma in the dust.

    In addition, Seattle successes can be attributed to enhancing its built environment, making it a more attractive place to live. Mpls and Seattle are very similar…..part of my growing up was in Mpls. Frankly, I am disappointed with Mpls’s recent performance. It looks the city is flagging. However, I haven’t been back in over ten years so I can’t be sure about that perspective.

  4. Stephen Gross says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis. One of the tricky aspects of urban planning–or at least *commenting* on urban planning–is what to consider “peer cities” of the city in question. It’s made more difficult in Minneapolis’ case because Mpls is really pretty unique as an American city. In the case of the Rust Belt, it’s easy to compare Pittsburgh / Cleveland / Milwaukee / Detroit / Buffalo. In the case of the West Coast, it’s easy to compare LA / San Fran / Sacramento / etc. But for Mpls, it’s a lot weirder. Is Mpls a Midwestern city? Is it a Rust Belt city? Is it something else entirely?

    Given that the MSP metro GDP is now the 2nd largest in the Midwest, maybe we really should be comparing it to Chicago more often than anything else.

    • Stephen and Andrew – Chicago is really hard to analyze! It’s so big! I have a full time job!

    • alki says:

      I definitely think Mpls and Seattle are peer cities while I think Chicago may be too big for comparison. I also think there may be something wrong with Mpls of late. You are not the only Mpls resident expressing concerns. For some reason, Mpls seems to be flagging.

      As a former resident, it concerns me that a casino will be built in downtown……usually a signal that a city’s downtown needs a shot in the arm. It concerns me that the city’s population remained stagnant during the past ten years in spite of significant residential construction downtown and in a decade where other American cities reversed previous population declines. It concerns me that a major interstate bridge collapsed from metal fatigue. It concerns me that a stadium was built so cheaply that it managed to collapse under the weight of snow in a city that has a very definite winter climate.

      Am I being too critical, or is there some reason to be concerned? You would know best.

  5. Stephen Gross says:

    I agree that the population trend is probably the most worrisome factor. If Mpls had shared in the population growth (17% in metro area from 2000-2010), the population would now be about 446,940. When you think about depopulated neighborhoods in the city, just imagine what it would look like instead if an additional 60,000 people lived here.

    To be fair, we should be careful about seeing patterns where there none. It’s true that the Metrodome has problems, and that Block E has been a failure. The lesson I draw from this is that Minneapolis is NOT immune to developer-directed urban renewal policy. Many American cities face the same challenges of declining population, declining infrastructure, and declining economies. Those same cities–bereft of truly creative ideas–tend to let real estate developers dictate new uses, because those developers (1) have access to big-ticket financial backing, and (2) are very practiced and slick in their public relations campaigns. The casino-in-block-e proposal fits quite nicely into that pattern. Block E failed? No problem! Just put in a casino! Friendly Mr. Bob-the-developer has a BEAUTIFUL artistic rendering of what it will look like. Money will flood into the city’s coffers! It will be a stupendous achievement! (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, of course…)

    Economic growth–if we really want it–works best when it builds on existing strengths. In MSP–and in Minneapolis more specifically–the economic strengths are (drumroll please):

    * Med tech
    * Marketing
    * Education
    * Arts & culture
    * Finance (to a lesser degree)

    Also, Minneapolis’ location at the far western edge of the Midwest makes it a convenient and strategic place to do business.

    So, my question for Mpls’ political leaders is this: how does your economic growth strategy build on the strengths listed above? (For that matter, how does a casino play into those strengths?)

  6. alki says:

    The issues I point out are mostly those that make the national press. That’s why I am unclear exactly what is happening in Mpls. And I think its important to note that just like people, cities are not always at the top of their game. Just twenty years ago, Times Square was a mess and NYC less than vibrant. Sixty years ago, Detroit was still a boom town. There is a constant ebb and flow to city life.

    When I left Mpls, it was a city of incredible parks/lakes [the emerald necklace], numerous bike paths, mostly great neighborhoods and a very vibrant downtown. If any city in this country was a candidate for renewed population growth, Mpls was certainly at the top of the list along with Portland, Seattle, Madison, Boston, Des Moines, et al. Instead Mpls is acting more like Milwaukee. Now that’s not bad…….Milwaukee is a fine city. Its just that Mpls usually performed better than Milwaukee when I lived there.

    Again, I am no longer a resident. Its you all who live there that know best. Its just that this country doesn’t have a lot of good, vital cities……..and I would hate to lose one.

  7. I think Minneapolis and St Paul got hit by the same forces that hit Chicago, St Louis, Cleveland – mortgage fraud and the foreclosure crisis joined forces to empty out the ghetto. Cities responded by tearing down more houses, which is understandable since it would take a regional effort to respond positively.

    Some other cities with ghettos were able to ride the other major urban trend of the decade – resurgent downtown and university housing – to overall population gains, i.e. Philadelphia and DC. I think those were exceptions though – other cities that gained population either grew through annexation or greenfield development or had very small ghettos.

  8. alki says:

    Cities as diverse as Seattle, Denver, Boston, NYC, Albany, Schenectady, New Haven, Madison, Utica, San Francisco…….to name a few…….all gained population during the last ten years, and in some cases, reversed decades of population loss. To my knowledge, none of those gains were done through annexation. Even a city like Syracuse, NY, which has been on the economic ropes for decades, managed to lose only a few more people than Mpls.

    Maybe I have an idolized view of Mpls but IMO Mpls is THE economic powerhouse in the Midwest…… and should be leading, not trailing the rest of the country. If its recent population loss is due to some failing on the part of the ciy, I hope that it is rectified soon.

    • Hmm, well I mentioned in this post that a third of Denver’s growth was through the redevelopment of military bases – not exactly greenfield but about the closest you can get. Also Madison, WI, grew through greenfield development and annexation – not sure if there were major annexations but there was major development on the east side at least.

      San Francisco and Seattle don’t have large poor neighborhoods, and because the only major negative growth trend primarily hit low-income homeowners, it makes sense that those cities would have grown. Thanks for the info about Tacoma, by the way. It must be that Washington just has a small population of African-Americans?

      I haven’t looked at the east coast much so I’ll have to look at some of those cities you mentioned. New York of course is another exceptional city as a historical magnet for immigrants. I wonder if growth in some of the smaller cities you mentioned can be correlated with growth of universities?

  9. alki says:

    Hmm, well I mentioned in this post that a third of Denver’s growth was through the redevelopment of military bases – not exactly greenfield but about the closest you can get. Also Madison, WI, grew through greenfield development and annexation – not sure if there were major annexations but there was major development on the east side at least.

    Okay. Madison presumably had some vacant land and Denver redid a military base. What about the other 8?

    San Francisco and Seattle don’t have large poor neighborhoods, and because the only major negative growth trend primarily hit low-income homeowners, it makes sense that those cities would have grown.

    SF had some very bad neighborhoods…..Hunter’s Point, the Tenderloin, Lower Haight, South of Market, parts of the Mission etc, some of which are far worse than anything Mpls has. For some of those areas, some gentrification occurred in the last 90s into the 2000’s. That might explain the city’s growth this past decade but SF has been growing for the past three decades.

    Seattle’s Rainier Valley is very similar to North Mpls except most of the houses in N. Mpls. are bigger and on bigger parcels. The city has spent considerable effort to improve the neighborhood, including running its first light rail line down RV’s commercial corridor. The area is improving but has a long way to go. I don’t believe that either SF or Seattle have an advantage over Mpls in this area.

    Thanks for the info about Tacoma, by the way. It must be that Washington just has a small population of African-Americans?

    Seattle is slightly less white than Mpls with more Asians and Latinos but less blacks. WA state was too far north and didn’t have the industrial mix to attract many blacks. A lot of blacks did move here during WW II but I suspect after the war, just like with Portland, they are were ‘encouraged’ to leave.

    Truth is Mpls and Seattle are almost twin cities……in terms of ethnicities and industry mix and quality of life.

    I haven’t looked at the east coast much so I’ll have to look at some of those cities you mentioned. New York of course is another exceptional city as a historical magnet for immigrants. I wonder if growth in some of the smaller cities you mentioned can be correlated with growth of universities?

    Mpls saw population growth during ’90s……why do you think that growth stopped in the 2000s.

    • North Mpls accounts for a greater share of the city’s population than the neighborhoods you mentioned in SF and Seattle – 13% versus 8% and 7% respectively, by my count. Not a huge difference, but enough to make a difference when we’re talking about a maximum 8% difference in growth rates between the cities.

      Two other ideas on why Mpls’ ghetto may not have gentrified to the degree that Seattle’s and San Francisco’s did. First, my understanding is that Lower Haight, the Tenderloin and South of Market are all clustered around SF’s downtown – in contrast, North Minneapolis is separated from Downtown by a large industrial area (which saw the highest growth in city). Second, it looks like the highest growth in the Rainier Valley was due to the NewHolly housing project, where the SHA nearly doubled the number of units. In contrast, in Mpls MPHA replaced the Sumner Field project with Heritage Park on a 1-to-1 basis.

      But you may have mentioned the biggest factor – Seattle ran light rail through their poorest neighborhood, creating a draw for development. Meanwhile the biggest government investment the Northside has seen was demolition of thousands of vacant houses.

      As for why Mpls’ growth stopped in the 2000s – for starters, it didn’t. It just changed to a different type of growth. The growth in the 90s was due (almost entirely) to immigration, but in the 00s immigration slowed, however internal migration increased significantly Downtown and in the University areas. This growth wasn’t enough to counteract the massive decline on the Northside after the mortgage fraud and foreclosure crises.

      If the question is why didn’t Mpls grow more, or why didn’t downtown Mpls grow as much as its peers, I’d guess that it’s partly because the Met Council of the last decade or two pandered to developers, and partly because Mpls pandered almost exclusively to NIMBY neighbors until pretty recently – only in the mid-00s did they start making policy and code changes that would allow substantial growth in neighborhoods.

      • alki says:

        North Mpls accounts for a greater share of the city’s population than the neighborhoods you mentioned in SF and Seattle – 13% versus 8% and 7% respectively, by my count. Not a huge difference, but enough to make a difference when we’re talking about a maximum 8% difference in growth rates between the cities.

        Could be…….with Seattle I didn’t include the Central District, another poor district, because it was already on the mend when I got here ten years ago.

        My point was that Seattle and SF both have/had bad neighborhoods but have worked hard to improve them, and dilute/mitigate some of their negatives……thereby making the city overall more attractive to prospective residents.

        Two other ideas on why Mpls’ ghetto may not have gentrified to the degree that Seattle’s and San Francisco’s did.

        First, my understanding is that Lower Haight, the Tenderloin and South of Market are all clustered around SF’s downtown – in contrast, North Minneapolis is separated from Downtown by a large industrial area (which saw the highest growth in city). Second, it looks like the highest growth in the Rainier Valley was due to the NewHolly housing project, where the SHA nearly doubled the number of units. In contrast, in Mpls MPHA replaced the Sumner Field project with Heritage Park on a 1-to-1 basis

        The Tenderloin and SOMA are downtown; Lower Haight is to downtown SF what Lake of the Isles/Loring Park is to downtown MPLS.

        New Holly sits between Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley and was a public housing project torn down and turned into into a mixed income development. The project’s success has encouraged people to look in other areas of S. Seattle for housing. In fact, S. Seattle is very much like North MPLS with Rainier Valley being the poorest and most troubled neighborhood in S. Seattle. Improvements in those neighborhoods reduced black and white flight from those neighborhoods.

        But the population growth Seattle experienced during 2000s was mostly in downtown and other neighborhods…….Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Ballard, Wallingford, Greenwood, and West Seattle. Thousands and thousands of condos and apts were built in those neighborhoods and successfully filled. For many people in the metro area, they would prefer to live in the city instead of the suburbs. That’s the same in SF. I believe its why both cities are growing again.

        As for why Mpls’ growth stopped in the 2000s – for starters, it didn’t. It just changed to a different type of growth. The growth in the 90s was due (almost entirely) to immigration, but in the 00s immigration slowed, however internal migration increased significantly Downtown and in the University areas. This growth wasn’t enough to counteract the massive decline on the Northside after the mortgage fraud and foreclosure crises.

        If the question is why didn’t Mpls grow more, or why didn’t downtown Mpls grow as much as its peers, I’d guess that it’s partly because the Met Council of the last decade or two pandered to developers, and partly because Mpls pandered almost exclusively to NIMBY neighbors until pretty recently – only in the mid-00s did they start making policy and code changes that would allow substantial growth in neighborhoods.

        Hard for me to comment. Its true that mortgage fraud hit MPLS worse than Seattle:

        http://www.forbes.com/2011/04/21/cities-home-price-discounts_slide_4.html

        which, to be honest, really, really surprised me. Stuff like that and Bachmann make me wonder what is happening with the Twin Cities. When I left Mpls, the Twin Cities were known for MN Nice, their lack of corruption, their Midwestern honesty and their reasonable politics. Its like someone put ecstasy in the water after I left. ;-)

        Bottom line: MPLS’s population stopped growing in 2000s. I hope that’s not the beginning of a trend.

        • Thanks for commenting – your west coast knowledge has been thought-provoking.

          Funny that the Forbes photo was taken before RiverStation filled the grassy field in the North Loop neighborhood with 350 units.

          My count, by no means comprehensive, is that 2,926 units have been proposed for the next couple years. Something like 500 of those are currently under construction. I’ll guarantee that Mpls is growing, but I’m not sure it hasn’t stopped shrinking as well.

          • alki says:

            I have enjoyed the exchange. Its good to hear about my old hometown and I appreciate you not getting defensive. Even though I no longer live in MPLS, I still want the city to do well. Its my favorite city in the Midwest…….and we all know the Midwest is Best! ;-)

            Regarding population growth, moving to Seattle has opened my eyes up to how much development needs to happen for an established city to grow organically.

            Frankly, I was surprised at how little Seattle’s population grew in the past ten years, given the amount of new construction of apts and single family homes in the city I witnessed since moving here. It made me realize growing an established city takes a lot of work.

            To give you an idea of what I am saying…..here is what is happening in Capitol Hill, a popular neighborhood close to downtown:

            http://preview.tinyurl.com/44peczp

            The article talks about a couple of projects and then indicates there are total of 8 projects under construction in the neighborhood. I suspect we are talking 700-800 units. That’s just one neighborhood in the city.

            Then there is this project in my neighborhood which is one of several coming on line btween now and the rest of the year:

            http://www.linkapts.com/building.html

            And then there is this project on the site of a former public housing project…again in my neighborhood:

            http://www.thehighpoint.com/

            The development still under construction and contains both apts and single family.

            This kind of construction activity is getting repeated through out the city. Again, my point is that it takes a lot of units to produce population growth. I think you will find out that to be true whether its Seattle, SF, Boston or DC.

            One other thing……we talked about ethnic diversity in Seattle. Well this week I read an article which explains that much like SF, Seattle has become more white over the past three decades. Not having grown up here…..I was not aware of that fact. It suggests that when a city gets attractive enough even white folk will move back in.

            Again enjoyed the exchange. Take care.

  10. [...] with 21 central cities shrinking, and of the 30 that grew, only maybe a dozen did so without annexation or greenfield development.  Moreover, as I attempt to show on the most confusing chart I’ve ever made, the vast [...]

  11. [...] as much as I enjoyed reading about those three urban success stories, I still think they’re the wrong cities to compare with MSP.  You might be able to make a historical case for comparison with our sibling cities of the Great [...]

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