Moving to the City? Join the Crowd

Moving to the City? Join the Crowd

The Forest City is at the forefront of a global wave of urbanization that researchers and policymakers have predicted often in recent years.

Just this summer, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing growth in many urban areas outpaced that of suburbs between July 2010 and July 2011. The announcement marked the first time in decades that downtowns actually drew more residents. And, as a study by experts at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University shows, downtown Cleveland is no exception.

For the first time in modern history, the number of people living in the city’s downtown area grew faster than the population of its suburbs. From 1990 to 2010, the downtown population practically doubled, growing from about 4,600 to more than 9,000. As developers and government agencies pour more than $5 billion into attractions, businesses and residences, young people are flocking to the city to become part of the increased activity. Looking for an affordable urban lifestyle, young people in their 20s and early 30s are on waiting lists for apartments. Old, empty offices are being converted to living space, and developers are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

“The young people who are moving into the city are blank slates. They see Cleveland for its architectural beauty, natural resources and culinary revival,” says Richey Piiparinen, a neighborhood redevelopment researcher and author of the study. “They don’t carry some of the baggage of Cleveland’s past that older generations hold on to.”

Downtown Cleveland reported the largest spike of any neighborhood measured in Piiparinen’s study of five metropolitan Ohio counties, but it isn’t the only one welcoming former suburbanites. Increases in urban living are a national trend, as people across the country rediscover the big city. And smaller “rust belt” cities are growing at much faster rates than larger ones.

“It’s a small trend, and the city is still dealing with large structural problems, like poverty and foreclosure, that need [to be] addressed, but repopulating the city is needed,” Piiparinen says. “If we can continue to leverage this trend it could be really big for the city.”