East 4th Street/Facebook

Growth downtown has outpaced Cleveland's suburbs and exurbs.

America certainly appears to be in the early stages of a back-to-the-city movement. While the bulk of population and economic growth took place in the suburbs and exurbs over the past several decades, the 2010 Census provided evidence of a subtle shift back toward the urban core, both in center cities and in more urban first- and second-ring suburbs.

This is not just happening in America’s largest, most cosmopolitan metros like New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, but in the archetypal Rust Belt as well.

Consider Cleveland. A recent report from Case Western's Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development, entitled Not Dead Yet: The Infilling of Cleveland’s Inner Core, provides evidence of a shift in population back to the urban core:

Over the last two decades, the neighborhood's population grew 96%, with residential totals increasing from 4,651 to 9,098. It was the single largest spike of any neighborhood, suburb, or county measured for the two decades under study. Downtown residential occupancy rates now stand over 95% and developers are eagerly looking to meet residential demand.

The above chart, courtesy the Urban Institute, puts this development in perspective. While Cleveland’s outer core neighborhoods (green) and outer suburbs (turquoise) have declined steadily—in fact, the city has lost 17 percent of its population over the past decade, nearly one in five of its people—its inner core neighborhoods (red) have grown steadily and its downtown (darker blue) has boomed.

Even more important for the city’s future, these new denizens are skilled, young, professionals. "They're more entrepreneurial," Richey Piiparinen, the author of the report, observes. "They're mobile. They're more educated than their parents."

A story in The Cleveland Plain Dealer painted a vivid picture. “Twentysomethings are creating a new and potentially powerful housing pattern as they snap up downtown apartments as fast as they become available. ... Neighborhood life is blossoming on blocks once dominated by office workers and commuters, and people are clamoring for dog parks.”

The significance of Cleveland’s population shift cannot be exaggerated. As Jim Russell puts it: “the urban core is a net importer of young adults and a net exporter of old adults. That's the antithesis of a dying city."

Top image: East 4th Street/Facebook

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. New public notice signs from Atlanta's Department of City Planning.
    Design

    Atlanta's Planning Department Makeover

    A new seal, a new name, and most importantly, new signs that people will actually read.

  2. POV

    Grenfell Was No Ordinary Accident

    The catastrophic fire that killed at least 80 in London was the inevitable byproduct of an ideology that vilified the poor.

  3. Times Square, 1970.
    Life

    The New York That Belonged to the City

    Hyper-gentrification turned renegade Manhattan into plasticine playground. Can the city find its soul again?

  4. "Gift Horse"—a skeletal sculpture of a horse by artist Hans Haacke—debuted on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square in 2015.
    Design

    What To Do With Baltimore's Empty Confederate Statue Plinths?

    Put them to work, Trafalgar Square style.

  5. President Donald Trump speaking at his press conference at Trump Tower.
    Infrastructure

    Trump's Infrastructure Plan Only Has One 'Side'

    Trump’s obsession with building big things fast doesn’t seem unrelated to his defense of white supremacists.