The Secret Annex

Steve Berg has a very in-depth treatment of the newly released ACS estimates in his column in MinnPost.  His point is that the metro area is not doing enough to reduce demographic disparities between the center cities and the suburbs, and as evidence he offers a statistical comparison of the suburbs and center cities of the Seattle and Cleveland metro areas with MSP.

Seattle comes off very well in this comparison, but Berg neglects to mention that it got a bit of a head start.  The city of Seattle’s website offers this map of annexations, which shows that Seattle kept annexing neighboring areas through the 1950s, meaning that its center city contains extensive areas that are suburban in character.  If Minneapolis had annexed St Louis Park and Golden Valley, it would look more statistically similar to the entire metro area as well, but instead Minneapolis stopped annexing in the 1920s.  (Incidentally, Minneapolis is more typical of Northern cities in this regard.  Southern cities mostly still annex their neighbors – Western cities are a mixed bag.)  I can’t find a map of Clevelands annexation but this page suggests that not much was annexed after the 1910s.  St Paul has some suburban areas (they developed in the 50s and 60s) but they are due to slower-than-expected growth and are smaller than Seattle’s suburban areas.

While I agree with Steve Berg”s points, I am wary of the ACS estimates – it looks to me like it severely under counts the mostly new downtown Minneapolis neighborhoods.  For example, the tracts fronting the river downtown are estimated to contain around 3,600 units.  My own compilation of units in these areas shows about 5,000 units in these areas.  I think that the 2010 census will come out closer to the Met Council’s estimates than the ACS estimates.