Get in my head – downtown population

So one of the things I think about when I’m walking around is how to accommodate increased population density in Minneapolis.  Not because I think that population size is a good measure of a city’s vitality or success – since most American city’s borders no longer extend with growth, it is a meaningless measure.

Instead it is a selfish thought:  I prefer to use transit to get around, and in order to build a good rapid transit system with current levels of car ownership, the population density will need to be roughly doubled.

In my mind, the population allocation would be about 50,000 each to North and Northeast, and 100,000 each to Downtown and South (and I think South could probably take even more).  Can you tell I play SimCity?

Downtown is currently estimated to have about 30,000 people, of whom around 20,000 were counted in the last census (which makes the estimate seem reasonable, considering the explosive growth in residential buildings downtown in the last decade).  So is there even room for 70,000 more people?

That’s what I aim to find out:  I will use bing maps’ polygon generator tool, which automatically calculates the area of the polygon in square feet, to create a map of all the developable parcels downtown.

First I divided Downtown into 8 districts:

There’s North Loop, Market/Twinsville, Warehouse/Theater District, Harmon Place, Loring Park, Core/Gateway, Mill District, East Downtown, and Elliot Park.

All of these neighborhoods have identifiable characteristics that distinguish them from one another, although of course the borders are hazy.  Although East Downtown, and Twinsville don’t exist yet, they are areas that are currently distinct from their neighbors.  And I’ll admit, I made up the Market District because I abhor multiple modifiers (like East Lyndale Ave North), and the North Loop plan gives it the boring moniker “Upper North Loop.”

At this point I’m not sure what average density to calculate these parcels at.  80 units/acre seems to reasonable, as it would represent a balance of low-rise and mid-rise (four and eight stories, respectively, in my definition) with a few high-rises (ten stories or higher) thrown in the mix.

But a transit-supportive urban policy should really focus high-density development downtown.  If only developments of six stories or higher are considered (floor area ratio is really a better measure, but I’m not sure I’m qualified to guess at what is realistic – FAR=8?), then average densities could be brought to 100 or 130 units per acre.  I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect much more than that – Minneapolis will never be Manhattan and I probably wouldn’t want it to be.

So look out in the next few weeks for a district-by-district breakdown of what kind of population increase can be expected.  And cross your fingers that it will total 70,000.

9 comments on “Get in my head – downtown population

  1. […] Links Going back downtown January 15, 2011, 11:22 am Filed under: density, Potential Population series This blog started as a distraction from insomnia, and ever since has been consistent in its fecklessness, skipping from topic to topic and dropping themes like a child does an old toy.  As much as I’d like to stick to my guns, it’s time to pick up again a series I started several months ago, the Downtown Potential Population Project. […]

  2. […] studying the density of multi-family housing units in Minneapolis by neighborhood and year for my downtown potential population project.  I have compiled the units per acre density for 343 buildings in Minneapolis – that […]

  3. Bill says:

    good thing they built all those two-story townhomes in the north loop along the river.

  4. It’s rather fun to imagine what life would look like with a big-time population boost in the city center.

    More realistically, most Midwestern cities (and Northeastern, as well!) as facing stagnant population growth. I suppose I’m painting a pessimistic picture, but I hold little hope for significant population growth in our city.

    Then again, maybe it’s possible. Maybe we could get some suburbanites to move in. It could happen…

    • Yeah this is all pretty unrealistic, I agree, but fun to think about.

      I am pretty certain that the central cities will see higher shares of metro population gain than in the past few decades, due to retiring boomers, higher gas prices, etc. But you’re right that it probably won’t be too significant.

  5. […] stuffed with caviar that they bought with the piles of cash they make off the ramps.  Even though this series is attempting to tell the future, none of us can tell the future, and therefore I can’t know […]

  6. […] relates directly to my Potential Population Series.  One of the reasons I think it’s worth my time to think about how much residential […]

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