Understanding Population Change and Density in St. Louis (UIC & nextSTL @ PXSTL)

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City of St. Louis Population Change by Neighborhood 2000-2010

St. Louisans are keenly aware of the population decline in this city. St. Louis City has lost 63% of its 1950 population. In just the 1970s, the city lost 169K residents, 27% of the population at that time. The 2010 Census revealed a decline of 8.3%, the smallest decline since the exodus was first recorded in 1960.

It is both exciting and depressing to envision the city at its peak population of more than 850,000. While city leaders in the 1940s planned for a city of 1,000,000+ residents (a city in which the public housing towers of Pruitt Igoe would have been desperately needed), today we assume that the city was artificially dense and some decline was inevitable, but also that today’s density is artificially low.

It’s interesting enough to think about these issues, but we have to know more if we care what comes next. If policy is to be directed at growing the city’s population, we must understand more about the history of population decline, what factors led to the downturn, and what an increasing population would look like today.

As part of the Pulitzer Arts’ PXSTL project, UIC has compiled and examined population data for the City of St. Louis and is producing a series of maps to help us explore the issue of population density in the city. nextSTL is partnering with UIC to promote a larger discussion, and add narrative context to the issue. Titled Visualizing Density, the project will be installed at the PXSTL site for three days beginning Thursday, September 25.

PXSTL{the PXSTL site will host Visualizing Density from September 25-27}

What portion of the city’s population decline was “inevitable” or attributable to demographic changes? How much was due to macroeconomic trends? How much may be the result of local policy? It seems nearly everyone believes that the city should seek to add residents, but how, where, why? And of course the city needs to stop losing population first.

Whether the hoped for number is 600K, 500K, or 400K matters a great deal. From today’s population of 319K to 500K is a massive change. From 310K people in 1870, it took approximately 25 years for the pre-automobile city to reach 500K residents. It took just more than 30 years for the city to lose a like amount from the late 1970s to today.

American families have changed dramatically over the past half century. The average household size in St. Louis in 1950 was 3.1 and in 2010, 2.2. With every other factor held constant, the decrease in city population would have been 248K or 29%. This means that with the same number of homes, the same number of apartments, and the same number of families as resided in the city in 1950, the decrease in average household size could account for 46% of the city’s population loss.

American homes have changed dramatically over the past half century. The average size of a new single-family home in 1950 was 983sf, and in 2010, 2,438. While this number overstates changes in a long urbanized area, there has certainly been a large increase in the average size of the single-family home in the city. This could be new construction, but is also the common two-family to one-family and four-family to two-family renovations.

If nothing else had changed, and families had simply become smaller, and lived in bigger homes, the city would have lost hundreds of thousands of residents. What this really points to is that even if the city, or select neighborhoods reach zero vacancy – zero vacant lots, zero vacant homes – at today’s density, the residential population will not return to 1950, or even 1970 levels.

In addition to demographic changes, the physical city has changed. Interstate highways removed ~1.7 square miles of potential residential land in the city since 1950. Urban renewal cleared another square mile and 20,000 residents (5,700 housing units) with the bulldozing of the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood. Industrial areas have grown. Hospitals and universities have expanded onto former residential sites.

So if there’s is a population increase, what could that look like? If all vacant housing units in the city today were occupied at current household size, the city would see an increase of approximately 59K residents, for a city population of 378K. If 100% of the city’s residential area were occupied at current household size, the city would add 79K residents, for a city population of 397K.

The residential area of the City of St. Louis totals almost 35 square miles, or 57% of the land area encompassed by the city limits. To reach 857K residents (the city’s 1950 population), the city would need to see a density of about 24K/square mile. That’s the residential density of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood today (which itself was nearly twice as dense).

One dot per person recorded by the 2012 Census{it’s easy to see on this population dot map, that density varies dramatically across St. Louis City}

Today’s Central West End neighborhood in St. Louis has a residential area density of almost 14,000/square mile. If all of St. Louis mirrored that density, the city’s population would be 479K. Mirroring density of the Shaw neighborhood would yield 440K. For reference, the neighborhoods that most closely reflect the city’s average residential area density today are The Gate District, Fountain Park, and North Hampton. The municipalities of Maplewood and University City have residential densities very near that of St. Louis City.

At the density of today’s San Francisco, St. Louis City would have 1.1M residents. At the density of today’s Brooklyn there would be 877K residents. Boston’s density would equal 826K, Chicago 734K, and Indianapolis just 141K.

There’s a lot going on here, and there are 100s of interesting ways to look at the numbers. Some cities have annexed large swaths of suburban patterned development, masking the population decline of their urban centers, and yielding a low residential density (Indianapolis). Some cities are less dense than in the past, but are still considered quite vibrant (Boston). Other places have simply continued to add residents (San Francisco)

So what are we talking about? Ostensibly, we all care about abandonment, the disuse of homes, buildings and land, in St. Louis. What kind of city do we want to build? What is the impact of residential density on economic sustainability?

Another way to look at the issue is to consider what factors could change, resulting in a population increase. The residential area of the city could expand (rezoning industrial and other uses), vacant homes could be restored, vacant lots built upon, or existing residential replaced with more dense residential.

Some areas may be rezoned, such as the Praxair site in Lafayette Square, but other areas may disappear as have rows of homes adjacent to the Saint Louis University Medical School. Vacant homes are being restored, though more are likely headed for demolition. Building infill would seem to be obviously worthwhile, as well as increasing density when possible.

Yet, as much as we collectively bemoan the decreased, and decreasing density of the city, many like it just the way it is. Residents lobby against new apartments in the Central West End (too tall), infill housing in Fox Park (too low-income), and apartments in Dogtown (too much traffic).

To expect any population increase to be evenly spread across the city isn’t realistic. Then, if the city is to grow, perhaps more residential units should be added virtually wherever and whenever possible. It’s unclear that this is a goal of many St. Louisans and the city itself doesn’t have a population growth strategy.

If the goal is to grow the city’s population, policy should follow. Instead, decisions about zoning, demolition, and new residential projects are decided at the Aldermanic level (there are 28 distinct wards in the city, each represented by an alderperson). The status quo is powerful, even (especially?) in a declining city, and many are very happy with their neighborhoods today.

And it’s possible we’re asking the wrong question. From 2000-2010, both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh lost a slightly greater number and percentage of residents than St. Louis, and each is hundreds of thousands below their historic high. Are those cities talking about population loss? Is there consensus, and do they have a plan to repopulate?

Beyond the scope covered here, it’s very important to understand that there are three types of population change: domestic migration (American citizens moving), international migration (non-American citizens moving), and natural change (births and deaths). The history and affect of each on St. Louis is another needed discussion.

We don’t aim to offer conclusions, but hope to inform this ongoing discussion. At least when we say that we want to see St. Louis grow, or return to X population, we may have a better understanding of what that means. If adding population becomes a goal, we may better understand how policy can have an impact.


Presented at PXSTL, and part of St. Louis Design Week, Visualizing Density will create a series of interactive, three-dimensional maps of St. Louis in which multiple densities are explored over several days. During this program, St. Louisans will have the opportunity to build energy and generate discussion about our future city. Visualizing Density will be installed for three days beginning Thursday, September 25. 

What is PXSTL?
As a collaborative initiative between Pulitzer Arts Foundation and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, PXSTL aims to promote dialogue about urban life and the impact of environment on everyday experience. PXSTL—an acronym that abridges the Pulitzer, the Sam Fox School, and St. Louis—is a direct outgrowth of the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School’s shared commitment to rethinking the future of St. Louis. The first major project, Lots, was designed by Freecell Architecture, a Brooklyn-based firm, and establishes a temporary structure on an empty lot across from the Pulitzer building. This architectural intervention becomes the catalyst for further collaboration both locally and nationally, including performances, music, meditation, food, photography, and symposia.


City of St. Louis Population Change by Neighborhood 2000-2010

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  • OneMan

    Just want to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and all of the comments below. I work in St. Louis and live in U City. Moved back from Dallas 7 months ago after 9 years of being gone. Trying to get to know the city again as an adult, and this has helped tremendously.

    I think a big part of attracting and keeping the next generation has to do with marketing the city properly. It just needs to seem cool to the outside world. In my early 20s, I wouldn’t have looked at a single statistic before deciding to move to a city that had a “cool” vibe and to have that vibe it seems like the city has to bottom out first (which I think we have).

    I saw a little bit of one St. Louis campaign while I was in Dallas by chance, “St. Louis Doesn’t Suck” or something. Terrible. Someone who knows nothing about the city will look at that and think: I didn’t know St. Louis sucked at some point. Hmm, let me look at the statistics. Oh wow. It did suck, and it hasn’t changed much. I guess St. Louis does suck.

    I mean, what was (or has there ever been) a consolidated effort to brand and market St. Louis to the world. Or even the St. Louis Metro area? Was it memorable?

    Encouraging a film culture will help a lot. I know there are all kinds of articles about the worthlessness of film subsidies, but any city that has a healthy film/tv industry helps with the overall brand of the city which far outweighs the negatives of loosing some tax revenue. St. Louis has so many amazing and diverse locations as well. The creative industries should be the focus, because they will be the ambassadors to the rest of the world.

    I know corporate money is a big factor, but the corporations don’t start “ruining” a city (from the early 20s perspective) before the cool kids move in.

    Also, I think making the city attractive to entrepreneurs is far more important than wooing a giant corporation. No idea how to do that.

    Oh, and let me disqualify all of my previous statements by saying: I know nothing about how or why cities grow other than my own anecdotal observations.

  • Ian W.

    This is an old thread, but I will just add a couple of thoughts.

    In general, I think that one possible way to address population and even participation with the metropolitan residents is to add diversity to what is available within the city. A large part of this would be to focus on building mixed use settings. For example, when we are trying to figure out what to do with a large property such as an abandoned school, hospital, or warehouse, I think instead of focusing on a big project, focusing on converting it into mixed use of residential, business, restaurants, etc. would be the best way to go. The other aspect of diversity is… just that. When I notice younger people who like the city (and especially particular areas), one of the big draws are the unique things that the city has to offer (take neighborhoods such as CWE, Morganford or Cherokee). Unfortunately, too often when we see something taken down we find that a new Starbucks, QT, bank outlet or whatever is built. I’m not saying that any of those things is bad on its own, but it certainly adds to a bit of blandness. My family and I sort of have this joke that “it isn’t a real St. Louis intersection unless it has Schnucks, Walgreens, and Steak n Shake”- there simply are too many corners that have these identical features.

    But, to add another aspect that we talk about on this site quite a bit is, “walkability”. And, I certainly think that walkable neighborhoods are a great factor in expanding growth, and if nothing else, vibrancy. However, one of the big issues that comes with this factor of building a walkable city is the idea that there has to be something to walk to. Unfortunately, in many neighborhoods this isn’t really an option. There are many neighborhoods that don’t really have grocery outlets at all. So the question is, which comes first? Should we make it more walkable and then that invites smaller developments to facilitate this? Or, do we invite those developments first and then sort out the details about how best to approach sidewalks for example? I think it is a bit of both, but I would say that in my opinion, facilitating smaller business is the best way to add vibrancy and that will make an area more attractive to growth. In doing so this will also address some of the ageing population, as smaller outlets such as what we see on Morganford and Cherokee attract younger people. I don’t think we can just blindly “retrofit” a city into a walkable area, without reason for that walkability.
    On the other hand, we can look at macro level ideas and approach things differently. This post suggests that as far as city population, we might have to ask what kind of population growth we want, and how do we see that developing. I would ask, what kind of CITY do we want? This approaches basic questions like: should our emphasis be on walking and cycling growth (walkability), should we focus on becoming one of the safest cities, should we focus on best education (and which, public primary, private, or college level– they are different and have different effects), should we focus on density/population, should we focus on the creative class, etc. Of course, we generally would like all of it… but, I think in order to solve these issues we have to consider what our target is at any given time and prioritize as to what our main objectives are. To some extent, addressing any one of these might address one or several others. For example, we could focus on education, especially primary, and that might directly have an effect on reducing crime and raising economic benefits. Or, we might focus on bringing in more of the creative class, which would raise general economic benefits, which may raise property values and reduce some level of crime, but might simultaneously lower density and population growth.

    I don’t have an answer to all of that, but I think too often we want to look at everything all together. What happens is when we discuss something like trying to bring developments into the city or even looking at the metrolink development… it turns into a discussion of crime. Or when we look at creative professionals moving in, we change to how long they will stay because (if and when they have kids) the public schools are bad. Or if we talk about increasing housing then we talk about the lack of jobs here. Every issue is connected of course, but it might be best to just target certain concerns in given intervals and places. Maybe we might say that what needs to happen in North city is more jobs and transit options right now, and south city might need newer types of housing (i’m not saying that this particular example is correct, just an example).

    I also think as far as relationships with certain suburbs and the city, the connections are much more closely linked than others. Chesterfield and St. Charles have less to do with the city itself and inner ring suburbs than do O’Fallon and Wentzville, while Maplewood and University City are very closely tied to the City.

    Those are just a few of my thoughts.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks for the comment. This should be a topic that is revisited regularly.

  • nunya

    two words can explain it all, white flight. Bow!

  • dempster holland

    The substantial increase in average home size since 1950 is also partially caused
    by the abandonment of very small homes (under 900 sqft)

  • John R

    I took the plunge and looked at population changes since 1990 in the Tower Grove neighborhoods…. complex issues going on to say the least. Between 1990 & 2000 TGS held steady, Shaw & SW Gardens gained about 10% and TGE fell about 5%. However, there was incredible racial change during this period, particularly in TGS, Shaw and TGE. Pretty much all-white in 1990, TGS over the course of the next decade saw the Asian population grew considerably and massive loss of whites (-5100) and massive gain of blacks (+3700). And TGE and Shaw went from comfortable white majority in 1990 to comfortable black majority by 2000. (And back to comfortable white majority by 2010.) Both blacks and whites were leaving TGS & Southwest G last decade, but their overall loss was less than TGS & Shaw primarily due to a very large drop in the black population versus smaller gains in whites & other groups.

    • Alex Ihnen

      We may try to get a sensical spreadsheet together to post and compile observations and crowdsource more insight.

      • John R

        Sounds great!

    • John R

      And it looks like overall population in the 4 Tower Grove nabes were as follows:
      1990: 35,085
      2000: 35,944
      2010: 30,882
      Adding back a bit over 4,000 to get to the 1990 density sounds reasonable in due time. Maybe Rooster + Buffered Bike Lanes = 21c. Population Magic Sauce.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Right. There’s clearly growing market demand for the area. So “if” we (the city) wants to see population growth (increased density), what does that mean? Perhaps sites like the gas station that appears set to become a drive-thru Starbucks should be reserved for multi-unit residential infill. Maybe row houses should be subsidized, but not single-family homes. These are the questions residents, elected officials, and the city should be able to answer.

  • John Hussung

    Before reading any comments, just want to say THANK YOU for this wonderful blog and wonderful article Alex! Please don’t ever stop informing me about this important stuff.

  • One would think that with such a strong central corridor, it would not be hard to start adding some attractive slightly upscale housing on the northern and southern edges of the central strip. How could the city or a developer adjacent or very close to already popular zones in the central corridor initiate something? Is the Grove the model? Is there some science to this? Would a large square new housing area adjacent to the central strip need to be gated to convince lawyers and accounts that it is safe enough for them and their families? How does it start?

    • Ashley Diaz

      I’m a lawyer and live in the central corridor! I do not think new housing will attract anyone. In fact, I sort of scoff at any dwellings built after 1940 within city limits. I am currently house hunting and what I am attracted to are rehabbed all brick houses within walking distance to restaurants and parks.

      I do not plan on having children any time soon and certainly won’t buy a house based on schools (why limit myself while I’m so young?!). But I imagine it is important to some people. So what will attract more young families to the city will be better public schools. That’s honestly the best thing the city could be doing to attract new residents: focus on fixing STL Public Schools.

      • Mathew Chandler

        come on over to Benton park!

      • Michelle

        I agree with you about the beauty of older buildings. I live in McKinley Heights in a building from the early 1900s, but I have friends that bought new homes in the Gaslight Square district. They are both young professionals, but wanted newer homes within the city. While it’s not what you or I would want there are people that want these types of homes. We also have to realize that unfortunately many older buildings have been torn down and if we want density within the city it will have to be new infill.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The Gaslight Square development certainly brought new people to the city and gave existing residents an option for a new home. My take is that we need a wider variety of housing options. While I love the historic buildings, not everyone does, and as beautiful as some apartment buildings and homes are on the outside, having lived in and owned a couple, there’s always work to do. The UIC construction in McRee town is selling well, and new infill is coming to The Grove south of Manchester. And obviously new condos and apartment buildings in the CWE are coming and have been filling up quickly so far.

    • John R

      The Gate District has seen a fair amount of residential infill construction, ranging from stunning contemporary to a more suburban aesthetic.

      • Alex Ihnen

        It has, but from 2000-2010 it still lost a few residents. In a way, I think this highlights the visible and invisible population. A neighborhood is leveled and new homes are built…and the population goes down. We’ll have to wait and see what the numbers look like after 2020. I’d love to have time to look back at select neighborhoods – and look closer at changes from 1980 or 1990 to today.

        • John R

          It certainly is complex. The Gate District, while not as extreme a case as FPSE & McRee Town, is another area in the CC that saw an increase in whites and a significant black exodus. But back to Gary’s question, it is another case where market rate residential infill is occurring in the edges of the Central Corridor.

        • dempster holland

          As you and others have indicated, you have to look at the
          change in occupied units, by number and type, and the
          change in persons per occupied units

  • Brian Guy

    Wow, that density map shows just how much of an island the Grove (FPSE) really is.

    • John R

      Thanks for sharing that. I also take it the ribbon of white beginning from NW of Tower Grove Park and then extending SE is the rail corridor… could be nice to run N-S Metrolink down that puppy if an existing corridor is most cost-effective.

      • From my understanding, UP’s use of the De Soto route is fairly limited, right? I’m curious too how many St. Louis businesses rely on this rail stretch for material transport.

        With a little creative land-swapping/purchasing, maybe the City of St. Louis could get sole use of the route in a long-term lease or full-buy. In that case, I’d have to think it’s way more cost effective than building a whole new system at street level or demolishing buildings for a new dedicated path.

        I desperately want to see a De Soto Metrolink.

        • dempster holland

          The failure of transit planners to follow up on suggestions such
          as yours about the Desoto Metrolink is an indication that they
          have no intent of expanding the Metrolink system, despite their
          promises to the voters in the sales tax increase of several years

  • dempster holland

    In my study at St Louis U in 1970, we looked at changes in population by census
    tract, as well as change in ages and occupied units and size of units, all
    by census tract. We then analyzed the changes as they related to the age
    of development of the various neighborhoods, dividing the city into
    three types: built before 1920, between 1920 and 1940 and after 1940.
    WE tracked changes from 1960 to 1970
    Here were our findings:
    l. The greatest change was the substantial decrease in small apartments
    in ares built before 1920.
    2. There was little decline in the number of occupied units in the
    areas built after 1940.
    3. In areas built after 1920. a fair proportion of the decline was in
    household size, which we attributed to children growing up and moving
    out, and elderly people living longer and less likely to move in with
    their children.
    4. Population loss attributed to highway construction and urban re-
    newal did exist, but was a relatively small par of overall loss
    WE did the same type of analysis for six other midwestern cities,
    and found almost the exact situation. Each had their small gentrifying areas;
    each had some expansion around universities and hospitals; and each showed
    a slow in the growth of black population. The relative loss of population
    in each was almost entirely explained by the per cent of the city which had
    developed before 1920.
    Our overall conclusion was that St Louis was no different in its
    changes than other comparable cities, with one exception: it had the
    highest percentage of land developed before 1920, a fact
    attributable to the city’s rapidly becoming the nation’s fourth
    largest by 1900

  • BackofEnvelope

    I like to treat other people with dignity and respect. I like to hear ideas that are different from my own. I am open-minded to what others think, even if it is contrary to what I think. I seek inclusion rather than the threat of exclusion, should my ideas be different from others or my status be anonymous. I don’t want to be bullied into being a conformist thinker. I have a mind of my own. I think therefore I am.

    Tolerance of other views, even if it is different from one’s one opinions, perspectives, values and ideas is highly valued in a democratic society. If there isn’t diversity of opinions, perspectives, values, and ideas, then one is only “preaching to the choir” and there may exist “the silent majority” that is under threat of never having their voices heard. Civic society is based on the sharing of information and discussing it in a respectful manner without attacking the person or using one-word insults to dismiss the views that are not agreeable to one’s own.

    I took a look at the St. Louis wikipedia and it shows that for 2010 US Census, 11% of the population is 65 or older. Assuming that not much has changed since 2010, it means that as of 2014, roughly 10% of the population is 69 or older. I’m just adding 4 years and using a round number of 10%. In 15 years, that 69 year old will be 84 years old. Again, just adding 15. How long can one live in one’s home independently before having to go to assisted living, hospital, convalescent, or under the care of a daughter or son?

    If the St. Louis population is roughly 318,000 (just a ballpark), then 10% is 31,800. So, this gives you a sense of size of those folks that are 69 and older. Now, keep in mind that the 69+ folks belong to the generation that was very big on home ownership so most likely they currently own a home and can live independently at the ages 69 to say 84, being optimistic that people are in good health and mind.

    So the worst case scenario if each individual who is 69+ owned a home– it can be as much as 31,000 homes that will eventually be put up on the market over the next 10-15 years in the city. Now, if the 31,000 69+ individuals were all coupled and owned a home together, then it could be as low as 15,500 homes up on the market over the next 10-15 years. So, anywhere between 15,500 and 31,00 ballpark is what the city is looking at as for estimated future homes coming on to the market from this 10% of St. Louis population that is currently 69+ today.

    Now, if their homes are not in tip top condition (remodeled kitchen/bathrooms) and have modern amenities that the millennial buyers like, it will be very, very difficult to sell. Most older folks do not spend their end-of-life savings on such things as painting, remodeling, landscaping, fixing roof, plumbing, fixtures, and furniture staging. Think of grandma’s house. What does it look like? What young person or couple wants to buy grandma’s house? Would you buy your own grandma’s house? Be honest.

    Assume that you are optimistic and that young buyers are wanting and willing to buy half of the 15,500 “grandma” homes up on the market from the folks that are 69+ years old. That leaves 15,500-7750 = 7750 homes left to be sold. To tackle the remaining 7750 “ugly” home problem that is hard to sell, family members of the deceased may try for quick sale by selling dirt cheap just to get rid of the property and not to be obligated to pay the property taxes. If these remaining 7750 homes are not wanted at cheap bastard prices, then these homes represent the potential stock for vacant/abandoned. The 69+ folks could leave the city with a ballpark of 7750 vacant and abandoned homes because their homes are too “ugly” or “too much to fix up or rehab” to sell. What will the city do with these if the family members walk away and just gives the deed to the city? People do it because they can’t afford the property taxes for an unsellable home.

    Taking into account the 10% of the population that will be gone over 10-15 years, if we take 318,000 STL population size and subtract out 31,000 (10% of the 69+ folks), that leaves 287,000 in population. The population of St. Louis city will be 287,000, unless new folks move in or new births happen. Let’s just say 13,000 new births happen in the city over the next 10-15 years, that would put the population at an even 300,000. City would need more people moving in than moving out over the next 10-15 years to get above 300,000. If for every person who moves in, there is a person who moves out, the population stays at 300,000. To reach a population of 318,000, which is what the population is today, the city would need a net growth of 18,000 people moving in over the next 10-15 years assuming 13,000 births happen and all else constant.

    What works against the city are: 1) low birth rates; 2) flight of families to put their kids in county public schools; 3) people who leave for better paying jobs or opportunities elsewhere; 4) not enough people who move in to the city; and most dramatically, 5) the 10% of population of 69+ who will eventually die off.

    The laws of human attraction tells us that “high quality people attract high quality people”. Maybe someone should look into that to see if there is something there that is affecting why people stay or go.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’d offer than the city, and all cities, have faced exactly the challenge you present, and have done so as long as they’ve been in existence. Another way to look at the issue is to consider how St. Louis compares to other cities. The city has seen a net migration of all age groups of 40yo+ greater or equal to cities like San Francisco and Boston. However, St. Louis badly lags those places in net migration of 20-29yos. And so I think you’re correctly identifying a problem, but one that all places face. In fact, small towns, and especially rural areas are seeing rapidly aging populations. I also think it would be smart to consider the “urbanized” population in St. Louis and include inner ring municipalities of Maplewood, Clayton, University City, etc. These are as urban as much of the city, and their counterparts are within city’s political boundaries in many places.

      There’s a lot more here – the story is about Millennials, but includes other age groups: https://nextstl.com/2014/01/millennials-saving-st-louis/

      • I am not sure what you mean by “I’d offer than the city, and all cities, have faced exactly the challenge you present, and have done so as long as they’ve been in existence.”? This is not all cities in the world rather for most part post industrial cities that face(d) this challenge. For most part it was the result of the shift in economy: industrial economy to new economy… Most cities –like St. Louis– have not managed to recover however a very small percentage of cities around the world have managed to re-invent themselves! In my chapter I mention a few as good precedent when I compare US to European cities. As mentioned it is a multi diminutional phenomena however not ALL CITIES experience this rather the “industrial or mining cities for most part… in the book mentioned with my colleagues we cover “typologies of decline” Hope this clarifies why not all cities!

        • Alex Ihnen

          Was responding to “BackofEnvelope” and saying that all cities have to have some way to replace aging residents, and while St. Louis City is getting older, the same is true everywhere. Perhaps it’s semantics, or I missed something, but it just seemed that to dwell on those 65yo+ is missing the point. STL retains that age group better than many thriving cities, and we can’t keep that age group alive longer than other cities. Anyway – lots of ways to come at these numbers.

          • John R

            I think the County has an even worse problem than the city wrt the 65+ issue. However, I would like to see more options in the city for aging-in-place… I’d love to see more of those projects like the one downtown at Plaza Square and it would be great to see more throughout our active mixed-use, walkable areas.

    • matimal

      Who are you responding to?

  • Jasmin Aber Interesting collection of maps+info.(?) indeed. great start… ‘Shrinking Cities’ is a complex multi-dimentional phenomena… it is a global phenomena that has taken many researchers working on this topic for decades now internationally. Formal academic research on this topic began in Germany when Berlin Wall came down etc. etc…. Since you and UIC have taken this topic to heart, I highly recommend the book “Shrinking Cities – International Perspectives and Policy Implication” Routledge is the publisher, it is a global comparative research work… You can buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shrinking-Cities…/dp/041580485X… Scholars and practitioners from around the world have researched and contributed to understanding the Shrinking-Cities phenomena around the world such as from Dr. Mulligan from Cambridge university, Dr. Sylvie Fol from Sorbonne university, Dr. Shin from Korea, Dr. Pallagst from Germany just to mention a few of the contributors… My own Chapter in that book compares US and Europe Shrinking cities (the last chapter in the book, Dr. Yahaghi from Japan contributed researched Shrinking Cities in Japan with me in that chapter), I am currently working on a new chapter on St. Louis for our upcoming publications… great and important topic for St. Louis and good luck guys… and its so much better St. Louisan’s address it themselves publicly rather then a scholar from another country and city… this city is not welcoming of experts from another country talking “Shrinking Cities” I encourage and recommend your project strongly. well done.

    • matimal

      “Shrinking”? St. Louis city and metro St. Louis aren’t shrinking. They aren’t growing much, but they aren’t shrinking. The only large American metros that are actually shrinking are Detroit and Cleveland. Metro St. Louis adds about 12-14 thousand people per year.

      • Adam

        actually, the city (and now the county) have indeed been shrinking—in terms of population—while the metro has grown marginally. not sure why you’re taking such issue with Jasmin’s comment. i don’t agree that we should just lie down and shrink, as some shrinking-city advocates propose, but it’s not clear that Jasmin was suggesting that. by the way, the “intellectual humility” jab was unnecessary and a maaaaaaaaaaybe just a little hypocritical.

        • matimal

          No. St. Louis city’s population is effectively flat and metro St. Louis grew about 23,000 from 2010 to 2013 alone. I said nothing about St. Louis County. That ain’t shrinking. Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo are the only shrinking major metros in America. This is all aside from the numbers of visitors, shoppers, diners, etc. which are a meaningful part of any economy. St. Louis is not shrinking. It’s dynamics are unlike those of shrinking cities in important ways that Alex chronicles on this site.

          • Alex Ihnen

            I agree and disagree. St. Louis City is certainly shrinking, and that’s what most consider a shrinking city – the emptying out of the urban core. Thought population lost slowed to 8% from 2000-2010, that was a loss of 29,000 residents. This decade may be flat, but I don’t think the city’s shrinkage is done since it hasn’t adjusted to support a population of just 319K and fewer jobs than before. This takes decades and maintenance of civic infrastructure requires millions of dollars. Will we repave every street and alley in north city? Will more schools close? Will more streets be closed? I think of these issues as those of a shrinking city (the term can be misleading).

            St. Louis County has seen flat population growth since 1970. It’s first ever loss this past Census may be a sign of accelerating population loss, or perhaps it’s just more flat growth/decline. If St. Louis County loses 3%+ this decade, alarm bells should ring (on top of the alarm bells that should be heard on all the other issues facing the County today). So we’re most certainly not Detroit or Cleveland as a metro area, but we are similar to Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – all with shrinking urban cores.

          • matimal

            Legal residents are one thing, the number of people physically present, and their money, is another. We all know that the number of people working, studying, shopping, dining, and attending social/artistic/sports events in central St. Louis is growing. Same in Cincinnati, to name another city I know well. This is yet another reason why these are not “shrinking” cities. Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo cannot say the same.

          • Alex Ihnen

            “Legal residents are one thing, the number of people physically present, and their money, is another. We all know that the number of people working, studying, shopping, dining, and attending social/artistic/sports events in central St. Louis is growing. ”

            I see what you’re saying, but I’m not convinced at all that this is the case. There was significant retail shopping in downtown STL through the 80s attracting people, and the CBD has likely lost 50K jobs over the past decades. Add that to 300K residents leaving since 1970 and there’s just no way there are more people in STL.

            My take (and I hope to have more time to look at this) is that median incomes are rising. New restaurants and bars follow. This makes most of us see a “resurgence”. Yet, outside the central corridor, there’s a real exodus of people, businesses, and money. Perhaps STL City is growing again, but we were losing ~3K residents a year last decade even with adding 3K downtown residents. I’d be more surprised if the city gained population more than if we lost. I’d be even more surprised if the city gained jobs or other visitors.

          • matimal

            To be blunt, I see far more white middle-class faces in St. Louis’ central corridor than I saw a decade ago, when I often saw none. On the nights of the Ferguson riots, downtown St. Louis was busier than I have ever seen it, though I admit that I only began to become familiar with St. Louis in 2000. This must mean something. A family buying dinner in a downtown restaurant may well make a greater net contribution to the financial position of St. Louis city than a legal resident who receives more in city services than they pay in taxes on their small salary or minimal purchases at convenience stores or walmart. We can’t assume that city finances and population have a clear simple relationship in these days of enormous inequality.

          • Adam

            look, you’re defining “growth” based on your anecdotal observations and revising that definition as you go. the fact is that as of last census the city was still losing population. that’s negative growth. if you want to define growth as “higher median income” then fine, but 1000 people with a slightly higher median income than a million people with a slightly lower median income is not growth. and if you want to talk about “growth” in terms of the metro then say “metro” and not “city” because as we all know growth in St. Charles doesn’t exactly translate into prosperity for St. Louis city. the central corridor has gained a few residents and the rest of the city has lost more residents than the central corridor has gained. that’s the facts. maybe we’ll brake even or grow a little by next census, but for the love of god just define exactly what you mean by growth so this conversation doesn’t keep winding around like it usually does.

          • matimal

            Look…No I’m not. I’m suggesting there are other ways to see growth. St. Charles actually does translate into some prosperity for St. Louis city. If St. Charles weren’t there, St. Louis city would be even poorer than it is. St. Charles isn’t the enemy, Houston is.

          • Adam

            “In these unequal times, follow the money, not the people to explain what’s happening in St. Louis or elsewhere.”

            money follows people. it followed the exodus out into the suburbs, hence the concentrated poverty in the city. again, give us a solid definition and then stick with it.

            “One middle-income professional is ‘worth’ many times one poor dropout with a criminal record in financial terms for St. Louis.”

            well, if the city had only lost poor dropouts then this would be a salient point. unfortunately the city has lost thousands upon thousands of middle class citizens—many more than it has gained in the last five or six decades—in addition to poor dropouts.

          • matimal

            People do what they do to get money. They follow money. I don’t know how to make this self-evident point without sounding sarcastic because it is so obvious.

          • Adam

            i think you would just end up sounding like you’re selectively ignoring the rest of the details, like you selectively ignored the rest of my comment.


          • matimal

            This isn’t an academic conference. We can all make our own points. My point is that St. Louis has possibilities and resources to work with that Cleveland and Detroit do not.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Adam, matimal – please stop. You’ve both made your points well, but the continued back and forth is silly.

          • matimal

            My comments aren’t silly, but the others aren’t interested in them, so I’ll stop. Metros matter. St. Louis city is not a hopelessly isolated and unredeemable place. It’s connected to the larger world in all sorts of ways.

          • matimal

            Everyone selectively ignores what doesn’t support their arguments. I’m hardly alone in that. This isn’t a Socratic graduate seminar. It’s a talking shop about St. Louis.

          • dempster holland

            how about the possibility that they went so they could have
            their own house and backyard and not live in a three story

          • matimal

            There is nothing natural or inevitable about American suburbanization. It was a corporate agenda. You can’t go somewhere until someone pays for the infrastructure to make it possible to llve there.

          • dempster holland

            I would like to know about the corporate agenda which you
            indicate shaped our suburbanizatioon. Is it written down? Who
            were the people who developed it? When did this occur? How
            did they get everyone to go along with it?

          • matimal

            I recommend Building Suburbia by Dolores Hayden (Pantheon Books, 2005). She describes it all very clearly.

          • Adam

            “If St. Charles weren’t there, St. Louis city would be even poorer than it is.”

            pretty speculative. how does that work, exactly? i would speculate that if St. Charles weren’t there sucking population and jobs from the city and inner ring suburbs then the city and inner ring suburbs would be more populated with middle class folks and city and county coffers would be filled with their tax dollars. the vast majority of St. Charles’ population is sprawl: relocation of people from one part of the metro to another. that’s not growth. the vast outmigration form the city to the exurbs has been much more detrimental to the city than the addition of a few thousand people in the exurbs has been beneficial to the city.

          • matimal

            I have to say that I’m genuinely surprised that people can’t see st. louis’ forest for its trees. I’m simply describing how metros work. I’m not saying anything that isn’t standard operating procedure in American economics. There are many ways St. Charles creates demand for land and services in the central corridor. The inability to see that is itself St. louis’ greatest problem.

          • Adam

            “I have to say that I’m genuinely surprised that people can’t see st. louis’ forest for its trees. I’m simply describing how metros work.”

            i have to say i’m not surprised that you would be surprised, given this and previous conversations with you. such intellectual humility… hey, remember Jasmine from up above? she actually researched shrinking cities and contributed to a scholarly book on the subject. remember what you told her when she offered an educated opinion that contradicted yours? “A little intellectual humility goes a long way.” that’s what you said. so, matimal, how many scholarly articles have you written about “how metros work”?
            “There are many ways St. Charles creates demand for land and services in the central corridor.”

            do tell (you know, instead of just proclaiming your brilliance). don’t forget: if you’re arguing for growth then you have to explain how any demand created within the city by St. Charles compensates for the city’s losses.

          • matimal

            “proclaiming your brilliance”? What on earth are you talking about? I’m just putting it out there. I’m not looking for people to agree with me, I’m just saying what occurs to me. I claim no “brilliance.”

          • Adam

            “You illustrate St. Louis’ biggest problem; the inability of many to see the connections within metro St. Louis.”

            “I have to say that I’m genuinely surprised that people can’t see st. louis’ forest for its trees.”

            i’m all for you putting your ideas out there, but be consistent and take your own advice: show a little intellectual humility.

            For example, you claimed “No. St. Louis city’s population is effectively flat” which is blatantly false, and when you got called on it, instead of just saying “yeah, that’s obviously not true. i was trying to say…” you started mutating your definition of growth seemingly so you wouldn’t have to admit that you made a false claim. we all do it from time to time, so when it happens just own up to it.

          • biddle

            Last year population estimate was the city lost 300 people, in a city of 318,000, that is pretty flat.

          • Adam

            1970—1980: -27.2%
            1980—1990: -12.4%
            1990—2000: -12.2%
            2000—2010: -8.3%

            to be sure, the loss is slowing (approaching flatness) but it’s most definitely not flat and has not been flat for decades.

          • Adam

            so based on the census estimate St. Louis lost 878 people from 2010 to 2013:


            that’s definitely low, and if that deceleration continues through the rest of the decade i’ll be comfortable declaring the city’s growth “flat”. statistically, “flat” to me means either zero growth/zero loss or a trend consisting of small, alternating periods of small growth and small loss that average out to zero.

          • John R

            Yeah, if those estimates are close to reality and continue to hold we’ll be doing pretty well compared to the past. We’ll surely see continued impressive growth in the Central Corridor; we’ll see how things go in North & South.

          • Alex Ihnen

            That’s possible, but those estimates are notoriously wrong. We really won’t know until 2021. It’s my opinion that reversing an 8% decline from last decade is a very big task.

          • biddle

            Fine, the sky is falling ad we should all move to a boomtown like detroit. Good god you chickens littles make me sick. Or I like the alex approach, move to the County,claim its still part of urban st louis and say you are part of the soltion. Get a mirror.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Ouch, man. 🙂 But really – I (and others) are (mostly) just trying to have a conversation about real numbers, real trends, and real challenges. I understand that this isn’t popular with everyone.

          • John R

            If we lose 5% or less we stay above 300,000. But if we reach a 6% drop say hello to the 200s! Looking at the numbers in your post, if we can bump up the growth to around 8,000 in the Central Corridor and lose “just” 14,000 in the North and 13,000 in the South we’ll make it a with a few hundred to spare!

          • Alex Ihnen

            Right. With the Arcade building and a few others being converted to apartments, downtown will certainly see growth. It’s hard to know if it will be 2,000 or 4,000 residents. Quite a few apartments, maybe 3,000 beds, further west will be counted for the first time by the next Census. But…north and south are a different thing, and losses there are very likely to continue.

          • John R

            Increased growth in the CC and slower losses in N & S seem likely to me…. a scenario of doubling the percentage growth in the CC (steep but not beyond possibility) and cutting the percentage loss in half in N & S leaves us with a small net loss, down just 3,000 or so people to about 316,000. I’d be pleased with that but it will be challenging. A more disturbing thought is continued steep losses in North City… assuming steady growth in the CC, it wouldn’t be too long before North City becomes the least populated corridor.

          • John R

            Looks like Minneapolis went from an almost 15% decline during the 70’s to a loss of less than 1% in the 80s…. gives hope that we can go from -8% to a small gain/small loss. I was surprised to see that the Twin City had little population growth between 1990 & 2010 and didn’t have any b/w 2000-2010. But at the present rate of growth in the Census estimates the city will have gained about 15% by 2020. Crazy.

          • Alex Ihnen

            FWIW – here’s another way to look at it: average yearly population gain/loss shown by decade. This and the graphic above look basically the same, but the difference between percentage and number of residents is interesting. One thing that stands out is that even though the city lost 12% of its population from 1980-1990 and again from 1990-2000, the number of people leaving was nearly 1,000 fewer per year that second decade. I know, super basic statistical stuff, but interesting to me.

          • dempster holland

            st charles county has about 400,000 people. Exactly where
            would they live if they all were in st louis city and st louis county–
            and wanted single family homes with backyards?

          • JP

            The issue is repopulating the urban core. Every city has seen people leave for the suburbs. Some have replaced those people. As shown on this site, the city does a good job retaining older age groups. We fail because we’re not attracting new and younger people.

          • John R

            Minneapolis comes to mind as a city that had some pretty significant pains not too long ago but is now repopulating the core…. I know that they made a strong commitment to transit and have a big university in town that provides a steady supply of young people, but I wonder what leaders/experts feel were the key to turning things around.

          • Adam

            there’s more than enough room in st. louis county and city for another 400K single family homes. other cities handle more than that in less space. regardless, i never claimed that the city/county needs all 400K of them, just that St. Chuck syphons population from the city/county, which it does. also, if the city were in better shape there would most certainly be less demand for single family homes in the suburbs.

          • John R

            Right… b/w existing single family stock of decent size and potential new construction sites, the city can easily handle a much greater population of families. I agree with Dempster that Saint Charles Co. was bound to grow with single families as much of housing stock was a mismatch for post-war preferences, but I agree with you and JP that we have more than enough ability to capture a greater share of this market as well as younger people and others looking for a different type of product.

          • Alex Ihnen

            That’s a hypothetical partially answered in this article and by the UIC/nextSTL PXSTL project. I hope to post full slides soon. But yes, there if course would be suburbs and I don’t think STL has sprawled more than other regions or that our suburbs are remarkably different than other metros. We’ve “shrunk” because we haven’t attracted new residents.

          • John R

            Is there some sort of lecture coming up? I stopped by the other day and it really does a good job of helping visualize what sort of density people may prefer… I look forward to being able to reference again some of the info.

          • matimal

            They could all be accommodated comfortable. St. Louis has vast areas of room in which to accommodate them. That is part of the problem. Much of St. Louis isn’t poor anymore, its completely empty.

          • John R

            I’d say Cleveland’s resurgence downtown has been stronger than ours while for the rest of their equivalent of the Central Corridor it is still good but maybe a bit slower than ours. Detroit’s Central Corridor (downtown/cork town/midtown) is growing as well. In fact, if our corporate leadership had half the renewed commitment to downtown as Detroit’s does we’d actually be unquestionably vibrant. But unquestionably we don’t.
            Anyway, I’m hard pressed to think of an American city of size that hasn’t seen some positive action in downtown/central corridors…. its what is happening beyond them that

          • John R

            is accounting for the broader changes in population gain/decline for cities like ours.

          • matimal

            Metro Cleveland lost 45,000 people from 2000 to 2013 and Detroit lost 19,000 in the same 13 years. St. Louis GAINED 35,000 people in the same time. These are big difference.

          • John R

            I don’t see what gaining 120,000 people in Yokelville has to do with the degree of change in Central Corridors. Actually Detroit, Saint Louis and Cleveland cities all have extremely similar densities as a whole and all 3 have been gaining people in the Central Corridor. We indeed have some great things in our city but so do others, even in those we might wish to look down upon, And we shouldn’t slight our serious challenges that we share with our peers.

          • The Fed

            We can learn different things from different places and no place is perfectly analogous. Detroit’s metro area economy is 40% larger than that of St. Louis. Cleveland’s is about 12% smaller.

          • matimal

            How have GDP and incomes changes relatively in these metros. I don’t have the time to look, but I bet they would be revealing.

          • John R

            I don’t think there is any question that the Great Recession took a larger toll on the SE Michigan & NE Ohio economies than it did in Saint Louis, but I believe according to more recent data growth is occurring more quickly in those areas… I’ll try to dig up a GDP report that just came out a few weeks ago.

          • John R

            Here is the govt. report released this month showing Saint Louis metro GDP is pretty much stagnant since 2010 while growing much more quickly in Detroit and Cleveland regions.


            Average national growth last year for cities was 1.7% and we grew 1/10%. Cleveland grew .5% & Detroit 1.3%. Part of the reason for the higher growth in those areas again is a rebound from a bigger drop during the recession but our lackluster growth is worrisome. We were 290th last year in growth last year.

          • matimal

            MUCH larger. That’s my point.

          • John R

            Things change. The recovery in GDP has been much greater in Detroit and Cleveland than here in recent years. Actually, we have the same GDP as 2008 while they both have surpassed that year’s numbers. And since 2010, Saint Louis has grown about 2.2%, Cleveland 5.7% and Detroit 7.3%.
            A rebounding economy + stabilizing regional populations + basic millennial trends = unsurprising growth in Central Corridors, including Detroit and Cleveland. (Detroit has the extra benefit of a couple billionaires making big downtown plays with jobs and property redevelopment plus several more million people living w/in an hour’s drive of downtown than we do to visit and patronize Central Corridor businesses and attractions.)

          • matimal

            GDP is one thing, but much GDP is only theoretically ‘created’ in a particular metro. Some of it is actually realized by stock and bond holders in companies in one metro who actual live, spend, and invest that money in other metros. Actual income is a better measure of a metro economy. From 2000 to 2012 St. Louis had similar income growth to Cleveland and notably better income growth than Detroit. Multiply this by the large differences in the NUMBER of people and you have large differences amount of income available to residents of a metro. For example, St. Louis and Cleveland both had increases from about $32,000 to about $44,700 in annual income per person from 2000 to 2012, but if multiple those $12,700 increase by the -75,000 and +120,000 in population changes that Cleveland and St. Louis have respectively experienced, you get an enormous difference in rate of growth in total income in these two metro areas. St. Louis continues to have much more to work with than Cleveland, much less Detroit.

          • John R

            Again, despite falling harder than Saint Louis during the recession, Detroit and Cleveland are not static and have stabilized in recent years. At this point, they share with Metro Saint Louis the struggle to shift into another gear and recover the jobs and income levels seen before the Great Recession.

            My main point with bringing up Detroit and Cleveland is that imo they presently have a greater level of commitment from political and corporate leadership to commit to greater downtown and have been seeing some good early results. And in the case of Detroit we can’t forget that with over 5 million people, theirs is a region that dwarfs ours (and Cleveland’s) and gives them a solid advantage in creating a truly vibrant Central Corridor. I think it is unlikely the 3 peer cities will achieve peak populations again before many more decades, if ever, but I think all 3 can see at least solid, dense Central Corridors once again if the will and wisdom is there. We need more will and wisdom.

          • matimal

            Metro Detroit is at about 3.89 million. My point is that will and wisdom come from experience and connections, not the other way around. You can’t develop wisdom about something, if you don’t have resources and connections to have the experiences in the first place.

          • John R

            matimal, the 3.89 million is just for the census defined Urban Area, 11th largest in the country. Ours is about 2.15 million, the 20th largest. As dempster mentioned elsewhere, UA’s can be very helpful to look at but are only a fraction of metro areas. Detroit is something of Saint Louis Squared… Double the size. Double the problems. Double the opportunities. Anyway, a visit or examination of Detroit and Cleveland with an open mind can help inform us of how we’re doing in comparison… what our strengths are and perhaps, if we’re honest, weaknesses.

          • matimal

            The census bureau has St. Louis’ MSA at 2,810,056 and Detroit’s MSA at 4,294,983. St. Louis’ population continues to grow and Detroit’s continued to decline narrowing the gap between them and in their overall economies.
            I’m familiar with both Detroit and Cleveland. I can’t imagine St. Louis learning anything from Detroit though I can imagine the reverse. St. Louis does have something to learn from Cincy’s particularly successful Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods, Pittsburgh’s light and heavy rail, and maybe the land assembly strategies of southern cities. But, Detroit?…no…..

          • John R

            The CSA, which is a more accurate depiction of the SE Michigan region is over 5 million… this is in a geographical area that is smaller than our expansive MSA. Throw in Toledo and Windsor and you have around another 1 million people or so within an hour’s drive of downtown Detroit. And the census is estimating that the region’s population slide has all but stopped since 2010 and ours barely growing.
            Besides its bigger economy and pool of people to enliven the Central Corridor, Detroit enjoys a number of other advantages as it competes in the 21c. such as a relevant international airport, a strong international trade corridor, and a stronger commitment to downtown that has included a return of thousands of workers and residents. Last week, it broke ground on a new Arena District on the edge of downtown — part of a larger 42 block redevelopment project — and this week is laying track on its M-1 Streetcar Line. It has a ton of challenges but it is making undeniable, impressive progress in its Central Corridor. If we can’t figure out critical issues like how to regain a strong international presence for Lambert, expand rapid transit in the city, and stop shedding office jobs in the CBD we won’t be making nearly the progress we should and may just find ourselves lagging behind in central corridor vitality. I think I’ve said enough on the issue so I’m out.

          • matimal

            CSAs stretch the idea of metro economies to the point of breaking. Do you work for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, by the way? With ‘supporters’ like you St. Louis doesn’t need enemies.

          • matimal

            Really? You aren’t aware of what Metropolitan Statistical Areas are and why and how they work? MSAs are the scale at which people live and at which businesses make investments. A multinational doesn’t choose between downtown and clayton, it chooses between St. Louis and Atlanta. Only AFTER it has decided on metro St. Louis does it even bother to chose a location within that metro. A metro that’s lost 150,000 will not win over a metro that’s gained 120,000. This an important distinction and the choices that Cleveland and Detroit have are NOT the same as St. Louis’ as a result.

          • John R

            Adam gave the best response below to your switching b/w Central Corridor and larger metro discussions. It is not a controversial statement that Cleveland and Detroit have a lot of activity going on in their Central Corridors.

          • matimal

            The central corridor exists because there is a metro area for it to service. The size and change in metro st. Louis is key to understanding its development and potential. The central corridors of Detroit and Cleveland are swimming upstream in comparison to St. Louis’ due to their population declines.

          • John R

            I’ve enjoyed the discussion, but this is in circles now. Saint Louis City lost over 30,000 people from 2000-2013 (the time frame you chose to cite) and the County over 10,000. It gained in the suburbs, This is the same as in Detroit where Wayne County (the core county in the region) lost people while the surrounding counties gained. In fact, Oakland County is pretty affluent and has more people than Saint Louis County. If you throw in Washtenaw County, which is adjacent to Wayne Co and home to UM & Eastern Michigan, the surrounding counties gained even more. (Like Washtenaw County, adjacent Summit County, which is adjacent to Cuyahoga County, is part of the Akron-Canton MSA.) But back to the central cores. all three are similar cities/regions showing some spunk and growth despite decline in the core as a whole.

          • matimal

            Ignoring the metro scale will leave you unable to understand and explain what is going on in American city centers. It will make it harder to distinguish one city from another which is necessary to understand real markets and the real possibilities of each city. Where do you think much the current and future demand for the central corridors comes from?

          • John R

            Yet when looking at the potential benefits of growth in surrounding counties to our Central Corridor we also have to look at the same in Detroit and Cleveland. When you look at current estimated population trends, Detroit & Cleveland metros have pretty much stabilized since 2010; and as I mentioned elsewhere GDP growth in Detroit and Cleveland has outpaced ours since 2010. Saint Louis, Detroit and Cleveland metros have more similarities with respect to challenges and opportunities than differences. All 3 have seen growth in recent years in the Central Corridor, decline as a whole in the core, and growth in the suburbs. All 3 are slipping in relation to other metros.

            [Also, when looking at the metro scale, for a fuller understanding one has to look at least at the Ann-Arbor MSA and Akron-Canton MSA for Detroit and Cleveland, respectively, if not at the even larger CSA areas.(The STL CSA is smaller than Cleveland’s while both are dwarfed by Detroit’s.)]

          • matimal

            Detroit and Cleveland are still “shrinking” and St. Louis is still growing. I don’t see much value in CSAs. MSA’s are based on the areas in which people actually function. CSAs are too large and often include places that are economically independent from each other.

          • John R

            Saying Ann Arbor has no functioning relationship to Detroit nor Akron to Cleveland is rather amusing. I suppose nobody crosses the Ambassador from Canada either!

          • matimal

            Not NO relationship, but certainly a limited one. Chesterfield is MUCH more dependent on St. Louis.

          • John R

            Their ties are substantial. Lots of people cross county borders for work and play. In Detroit, Washtenaw Co. Commuter Rail to downtown is under study. Its 350,000 people indeed are a nice resource for Detroit’s Central Corridor potential. Same with Summit County’s 500,000+ for Cleveland.

          • matimal

            You illustrate St. Louis’ biggest problem; the inability of many to see the connections within metro St. Louis.

          • dempster holland

            In st louis, the urban core has been shrinking at least since 1920
            and probably before that. Much of what we think of as downtown (out to 12th or 14th) was populated up until the 1880s. The oldest parts of the city has always been losing population in
            most parts, even if it gains in some parts. And as to St Louis
            County losing population, it really isn’t if you consider St
            Charles county as in effect an extension of st Louis
            The problem with many urban studies is they overemphasize
            comparisons between political units, rather than between
            urbanized areas. mostly because it is far easier to do. But it
            leads to gross misstatements of what is happening, as
            evidenced by the frequent “studies” which show St Louis
            city high in the list of pathological elementys

  • John R

    What’s realistic to expect downtown in the next ten years or so? Our downtown org says we are growing about 500 residents a year and I hope that we can at least double that in the relative short term as we have quite a way to go before we have the kind of decent residential core that really can begin to excite retailers, particularly as the CBD is a relatively weak jobs center. For comparison, Minneapolis not only has a strong downtown CBD but its leaders also say there are about 35,000 residents downtown and they plan to double that by 2025…we only have around 10,000 now in Downtown & Downtown West and I think we’d need at least 20,000 or so before downtown could resemble a truly thriving district.

    • dempster holland

      In comparing “downtown”populations,you surely would have to see how each
      city defines :downtown” For example, in st Louis do we go west to Jefferson?
      Or to Grand? North to Delmar? Or to Cass? etc

      • John R

        Reminds me of when a media outlet reported the new Mercedes dealership was in downtown! I prefer sticking with the core Downtown & Downtown West rather than including some of the adjoining neighborhoods like Downtown Now does to get an arguably padded number. Anyway, even if Minneapolis is padding as well we still have a ways to go. I would think we’re close to landing some much needed basic amenities like a full drug store, but it will take some time before our street activity is bustling day & night and things like CityTarget will entertain coming. Arcade-Wright & Webster U should be a big boost for the OPO district and hopefully it will help trigger some retail deals in the vicinity.

  • matimal

    Adding columns “Household Incomes,” “Property Values,” and the changes in these (which would be difficult, I’m sure) would show what’s happening beneath these numbers. If one poor person who pays little in taxes and uses a lot of public services leaves and is replaced with a young professional who pays taxes to the city and uses little in the way of public services is a big net improvement in the city’s fiscal position with no change in the headline population numbers. I don’t have these numbers, but I suggest they’d show an even bigger fiscal change happening. Multiply this effect by a 5 or 6 thousand in the central neighborhoods and you have an even bigger fiscal change than a population one. Wealthier neighborhoods get more of what they want in America. This will start to change the politics of the city even if the population changes only look

    • onecity

      This is a very, very, extremely important point. Even if the city has a stagnant population, the quality of the population can change, and I believe that is happening in many places. There is no doubt a higher income, low-service-consumption population would yield huge benefits for the city. Dealing with deep poverty consumes city resources that could be used in such better ways to make the city attractive for the new St. Louisans that come here by choice and want to be part of a real city.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I think there’s no doubt that St. Louis could easily fit more residents in the city. These don’t necessarily have to be higher income for the city to benefit. Simply getting vacant homes/lots on the tax roll would be big. Then the discussion of who the city is for, whether or not there is displacement happening, where and how, is very important. But yes, the assumption that fewer residents equals a declining city is being challenged in STL, and elsewhere.

        • John R

          I think a major discussion has to be on what is happening to our black population. The black population dropped in all three corridors and accounted for a much larger percentage of loss than whites did. A number of growing neighborhoods switched from majority black to majority white last decade, including Shaw, TGE and Skinky-D and there also was a dramatic loss of blacks in other attractive areas such as CWE and FPSE. This is not a good thing if in general they are moving to places further away from better access to good transportation and jobs and into greater areas of concentrated poverty rather into areas of greater opportunity.

          • John R

            ^ editing that last comment, Shaw, TGE & Skinky-D did not grow last decade overall as a result of more blacks moving out than other groups moving in..

          • onecity

            The heavy concentration of any ethnic/immigrant group has a shelf life. I think to some extent, this is the natural flow of asssimilation as southern blacks flow out of inner cities into the burbs, like every other immigrant group before them. STL is 45% black or so, while the region is 15% or so. Long term, there is no reason both stats wouldn’t be approximately the same.

            If blacks are moving out of north city, they are not likely moving to areas of *greater* poverty concentration, as NSL is the region’s heavyweight champion of poverty concentration (on the MO side anyway). So it is probably a win for them as they move into less broken areas, and also a win for the city, as it has a smaller impoverished population consuming limited resources.

          • John R

            I think it is a much more complex issue than you make it; at least two distinct things seem to be going on. First, as you say, many blacks that are leaving North City probably are doing so voluntarily in search of a better life in the suburbs; unfortunately, the gains may not be as great as hoped but abandonment surely is exacerbated in the North City areas being left behind.
            Then there is the massive number of blacks that have moved from up and coming Central Corridor & South City neighborhoods. This likely is not by choice in general. When around 1,000 blacks are moved out of CWE, FPSE & Shaw each and an equal number move into more marginal Dutchtown and Bevo Mill what we see are movement of blacks away from areas of greater opportunity to areas with less. That is not a good thing in my opinion.
            Anyway, I think it is an area of important discussion and the challenge seems to be to provide for greater access to jobs and opportunity for all of our people in the City and surrounding suburban areas and we’re not seeing that. Moving quickly on a North-South line would be a big boost and perhaps the single most important policy difference the region could make.

          • matimal

            my point exactly.

          • matimal

            This is St. Louis’ story. It’s why Ferguson happened. Poorer blacks are moving northward and investors and middle/professional class whites are moving in behind. think of it as a circular counter-clockwise cycle of poor blacks moving northward, middle-class whites moving westward, and younger and professional class people, and the investors looking to make money from them, moving eastward along the central corridor.
            I wonder how this will affect the areas of poor blacks in south St. Louis. The concentrations of poor blacks are slowly declining in south St. Louis. Are they moving to Illinois, to north St. Louis?

        • onecity

          They don’t have to be high income, but they need a high enough income to properly maintain property. And preferably college degrees to help fuel the city’s knowledge economy, since the blue-collar days are pretty much done.

    • dempster holland

      The best example of persons who contribute revenue but do not take much
      in services are Catholics, Lutherans and fundamentalist Christians, who
      tend to send their kids to religious schools and thus do not require the
      use of the public school system

      • onecity

        Riiiiiight. And in the process, by depriving the public schools of people that actually care about their kids education, are complicit in ruining them.

      • moe

        Don’t forget the childless couples, same sex couples and all the singles and gays out there with no children that pay property taxes yet don’t use the school system. I would say this number is far greater than any religious group.

        • onecity

          Those groups don’t affect the socioeconomic mix in the schools, and therefore school performance. Also, those childless groups are everywhere.

          When middle class families opt out and shirk their civic responsibility to make their own neighborhood public schools excellent through widespread participation (as opposed to doing what the minimum they are legally mandated to do by “paying taxes”), they sow the seeds of blight.

          • matimal

            So, you’d rather middle class families stayed away from St. Louis city altogether rather than they live in the city and not send their children to non-charter or non-public schools.

          • onecity

            ? Middle class families’ participation is the key to fixing SLPS. Which is the key to growing the city’s population. Which is the key to fixing the ratio of $ spent on nice things versus policing criminal trash. Which is all about tax ROI.

          • matimal

            Is that a no or a yes?

          • onecity

            It’s a “the old blood can’t be replaced by transplants soon enough.”

          • moe

            Re-read Matimal’s post and then Dempsters’. The discussion centered around tax inputs and service uses. Dempster pointed out that those who choose to send their kids to private school still contribute to the public school system yet get nothing out of it. To which I added “childless couples, same sex couples and all the singles and gays out there with no children”….also people who contribute to the public schools yet do not get anything out of it.
            I did not interpret their comments as judgment on the socioeconomic mix and school performances. If that is what your take away point is, then that is an entirely different (and maybe worthy) discussion. But this was centered solely on inputs (taxes) and outputs (services consumed).
            As for your definition that paying the minimum legally mandated amounts sow the seeds of blight….I don’t know where you’re living, but 99.99999999999% of all taxpayers I know only pay the minimum legally mandated amount. So 99.99999999999% of taxpayers must be sowing the seeds of blight. You might want to revisit that thought line.

  • Kevin Pastore

    I would be interested to find out the current population for The Hill. In the year and a half I’ve been living here, there have been several new homes (infill) built and quite a few rehabs. Really wondering if South City, in general, in the past 3 years has leveled off…

    • Alex Ihnen

      We don’t really get a reliable count until 2020. The yearly estimates have been significantly off in prior years (2009 has STL City at 356K, up from 2000’s 348K and not close to 2010’s 319K). My guess is a slight decline. I think structural changes, primarily smaller families, weighs down new infill and renovations. But that’s just a guess.

      • John R

        Weren’t those annual estimates inflated in large part due to the Census accommodating challenges from the City of its lower estimates? Anyway, I think we can be pretty sure that the Central Corridor continues to grow (and probably at a greater rate) while South City is losing less even if it is not yet stable.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Yes, that’s correct. After 2010, the city has wisely decided to stop challenging Census estimates.

  • Ted Yemm

    Good point. I assume that occupancy rates are tracked. It would be interesting to see the two data sets together.

  • TGS Resident

    It’s interesting to see that Tower Grove South and Shaw are in the top 5 neighborhoods for most residents lost. I think that if you asked any Real Estate professional, they would tell you that those are two of the “hottest” neighborhoods in the City. Homes certainly don’t stay on the Market long in those areas. Perhaps it’s the conversion from 2 family to 1 family, or the family of 4 or 5 upgrading and selling to single or dual occupant first-time buyers.

    • matimal

      Precisely. It’s poor renters making room for households with much larger incomes. Three renters leave and a three person household takes their place. No population change, but a big change in property value and household income, not to mention taxes paid to St. Louis City.

    • John R

      I can’t imagine the Tower Grove neighborhoods losing as much this decade as the prior one…. I see a fair amount of conversions from two-family to single family resuming as the housing market tepidly recovers but I’m also seeing more properties that were previously vacant being undertaken for rehab. Plus more families seem to be exploring and taking advantage of their growing school options that have arisen over the past five years or so.

      • Alex Ihnen

        It’s a very difficult thing to get right just by observation. If that vacant building was two apartments with six residents three years ago and is sold to a single occupant, you don’t have population growth. It’s fascinating that economic/real estate revival of many city neighborhoods has happened in lock step with population decline.

        • John Hussung

          Never thought about that before!

        • John R

          Very true but what I’m seeing in nabes like TGS is a significant number of renovations of properties that were unoccupied prior to 2010, so these will add to the rolls… that plus again seeing a lot more school-aged children are an indication that population #s are improving around the park. I was shocked when there was 10% & 17% loss in TGS & Shaw, respectively last decade so anything can happen, but I just don’t see those kind of rates again. One qualifier on TGS is that it is a large neighborhood and the dynamics in the area closer to Gravois will be different than the older, more historic part near the park.

        • John R

          Adding to my comment below about more units seemingly being occupied now than in 2010, what sticks out from the census #s is the higher # of vacant units in 2010 than in 2000 in neighborhoods like TGS & Shaw. For example, in TGS there were 991 vacant units in 2000 and over 1,000 in 2010. I suspect a fair amount of vacancies were due to the recession and by now a fair amount are occupied as projects that were underway but stalled have been completed, new projects of vacant properties tackled, and more foreclosed homes sold. Anyway, filling up a lot of those vacant units is a way to combat the demographic reality of a smaller population per unit and I think that is happening to a decent degree in TGS area nabes.

          • Alex Ihnen

            I think you may be correct, but I hesitate to be optimistic about possible increases in population – or occupied units. Absent any real data or evidence, we can’t assume the numbers and trends were see are aberrations, or have reversed. What’s needed are policy steps that work toward filling vacant buildings and lots, as well as increasing density. We’re not actually doing anything to re-populate the city, we’re just saying it would be nice if it happened.

          • John R

            Agreed; places like TGS & Shaw may not actually gain people but I am fairly confident that we won’t see the same percentage of eye-opening loss that we did last decade (approx. 10% & 17%. respectively). Overall, the trend in the city is at least going in the right direction; I’ll also try to look into neighborhood populations the past few decades in the Tower Grove nabes.