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Who Lives Downtown?
Photo: Drew Mauck
One of the most successful ways that cities have tried to revitalize “downtown” (the central business district) is to increase the number of homes—usually apartments and condos. During the last decade downtown population in America’s 44 largest cities grew by 10% after declining during the previous 20 years, and the number of households increased by 13%.

An analysis recently released by the Brookings Institution reveals the profile of these revitalized downtown communities:

  • Single adults and childless married couples make up the largest share of households, including a growing number of homes where unrelated individuals live together.
  • Downtown is more ethnically diverse. The percentage of Hispanics, Asians, and “Others”—not Blacks and Whites—has increased from 19% to 27% over the past two decades. And there are more Whites moving in during the most recent years.
  • There are significantly higher percentages of young adults and college-educated adults living downtown.
  • Twice as many downtown people own their home as was true 30 years ago in the 1970s.
  • Downtown includes some of the most affluent and some of the poorest people in the city. Most cities include at least one section downtown where the median household income is higher than it is for the entire metropolitan area, as well as a section where it is half that of the median for the metro area.

Surprisingly a lot of commuters still think, “nobody lives downtown” except a few homeless people on the streets. Suburbanites somehow don’t understand that for a significant share of the population, downtown is a very interesting and stimulating place to live. It has architecturally interesting buildings, a waterfront (in most cases), a rich cultural heritage, entertainment, top health care and education institutions, and easy access to jobs and transportation.

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By Monte Sahlin. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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