City of Richmond Leads Regional Population Growth

The Lofts at Canal Walk in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom
The Lofts at Canal Walk in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom

It’s only one year’s worth of data, so I don’t want to make too much of it, but new U.S. Census numbers confirm my argument that the center of gravity of population growth and development is shifting back toward the urban core — at least in the Richmond region. Between July 2011 and July 2012, reports Graham Moomaw with the Times-Dispatch, the population of the City of Richmond grew faster than Henrico, Chesterfield or Hanover Counties.

The numbers:


That’s all the more remarkable when you consider how many years the population of Richmond shrank. But the the city’s outstanding performance should come as no surprise to anyone who has visited downtown, Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill recently and seen the number of warehouse-to-condominium conversions that have taken place.  And there’s a lot more urban housing stock to come.

The picture really couldn’t be any clearer. The fastest population growth occurred in the walkable, mixed-use urban center, the slowest growth in auto-centric, low-density exurbia (Hanover County) and middling growth in the medium-density suburbs of Henrico and Chesterfield. The only thing likely to skew this trend, to my mind, is if the Innsbrook office park in Henrico successfully transforms itself into a second node of walkable urbanism.

Update: Clearly, this is a national trend, as reported by this Associated Press article, among others.


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11 responses to “City of Richmond Leads Regional Population Growth”

  1. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    Another timely Bacon article. And that associated press article referenced above is well worth a read.

    All this is precisely why Tyson Corner should be on the cusp of a fantastic rebirth – indeed a Phoenix Rising (the timeless classic phoenix of course, not that idiocy out in the southwest desert).

    For Tyson’s Corner, this drying up of new office space demand will prove to be a fabulous blessing in disguise.

    The bulls-eye location of Tyson’s will insure against the major pain of a county wide office space demand decline, while that very same decline will also protect the new risen city from the irresponsibly of its office space developers, and the inexplicable willingness of its county planners and government leaders to go along with those developers.

    The new market forces at work in northern virginia thus will intervene to swing Tysons into a wonderfully productive balance. And carry it on a strong breeze into a very bright future.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      PS to insure point is clear – it’s the increase of urban residential demand combined with the lowered office space demand that will transform Tyson’s Corner from a Pig’s Ear into a Silk Purse.

  2. Breckinridge Avatar

    Gee, and when the city finally gets around to cutting some of that 28 inch tall grass at its schools and parks, a couple hundred more people might appear…

    Bad joke. But I agree, the urban/walkable lifestyle is attracting more and more. Don’t forget the high cost of gas and the growing (un)popularity of toll roads. But I still contend it is mostly families w/o school age children, or those who can afford the private schools. At least in Richmond.

  3. larryg Avatar

    I think Breckinridge is dead on with one more thing. I’ve driven around much of Richmond – and there are more than a few urban lifestyle/walkable places where you do not want to be – even without kids.

    I guess it would be blasphemous to have a map of Richmond …so delineated, eh?

    somebody said something about Canal Walk – wanna go strolling down that way at night? 😉

    okay… so tell me that I’ve got the heebie jeebies for no good reason….

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Good point Larry. Richmond still has exceptionally high poverty rates in some areas especially in neighborhoods north and northeast of the downtown area. I guess ole Jimbo doesn’t get out there much.

    I mean it’s no surprise that more renters are moving in to the Shockoe, Broad Street areas. The Canal Walk is a joke, despite the photo. It’s a vacant mess.

    Broad Street downtown is different but it would be nice if Mr. Bacon added a little healthy skepticism to his. . . nah, I won’t say it.

  5. larryg Avatar

    I don’t necessarily equate poverty with crime… Peter but I bet a crime map of Richmond would be helpful in determining where to find a place to live (or not).

    I think the Canal Walk has promise… I see that it is used by walkers and bikers during daylight hours… but there’s too many nooks and crannies down there for nightime.

  6. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
    Ghost of Ted Dalton

    Mr. Bacon,
    Isn’t the key to the entire new urbanism idea: better public schools? I don’t think anyone doubts that most people prefer walkable urbanism compared to strip mall suburbs. But the suburbs usually have much better public schools and this leads a lot of families to choose them over urban areas.

    1. Ghost, Households with children fled to the suburbs for three main reasons: (1) better schools, (2) lower crime, and (3) lower taxes. Those factors outweighed the quality of urban design.

      However, the times, they are a’changing. First, the crime rate is going down and fear of crime is diminishing as a factor keeping people away from the urban core. Second, county governments are finding themselves under increasing fiscal stress. While taxes are still lower than in cities, I think you’ll find the gap diminishing.

      Third, and most relevant to your point, America is experiencing a major demographic shift. Households with children constitute a shrinking share of the population. Singles, married couples with no children and empty nesters constitute a growing proportion of the population, and will continue to do so for some time. Schools are secondary to them. Walkability is a paramount concern.

  7. larryg Avatar

    totally agree with Ghost of Ted Dalton…..

    better schools, safer schools, safer streets. Ask people who have kids and live in the suburbs – what their kids do – where they go, what activities they engage in ….etc…

    and try to imagine these kinds of activities occurring in a New Urban situation – not the idealized one we see on architectural renderings but the real ones that exist right now – in many parts of Richmond.

    this is like a humongous blind spot for New Urbanism – it basically pretends that it does not need to provide an environment for – families – just young singles.

    Families are what drive sprawl – not because they explicitly want sprawl – they just reject the choices offered to them in most urban locales.

    New Urban has to explicitly address two key areas:

    1. – affordable housing

    2. – families – places you can raise a family that is safe and has good schools

    OR – and I allow this possibility also – New Urban was never intended to appeal to families…..

    but then if that’s true – how can we keep making sprawl the enemy of new urbanism?

    to be sure – there are kids and families in urban locations… but New Urban especially seems to not really allow for families…

  8. […] failed twice, largely because projected sprawl in its vicinity just never materialized. (Instead, Richmond’s core is booming, as in other metro areas.) Since TIFIA loans account for one-fourth of Pocahontas’ debt, […]

  9. […] failed twice, largely because projected sprawl in its vicinity just never materialized. (Instead, Richmond’s core is booming, as in other metro areas.) Since TIFIA loans account for one-fourth of Pocahontas’ debt, […]

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