Mixed News for Mixed Use
The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Project has mostly good news on trends in downtown residential density. Between 1990 and 2000, the population of people living downtown increased 10.4 percent: a major jump after 20 years of outmigration - fueled by so-called white flight - from inner cities to outlying suburbs. (Between 1970 and 1980, for example, downtown populations showed exactly the opposite trend, declining by 10.4 percent.)
Of the 45 cities surveyed, Seattle’s downtown population grew the fastest during the 1990s (77%), and was second only to Norfolk, VA in overall growth between 1970 and 2000 (86%).
The demographics of those new downtown residential neighborhoods, however, are hardly representative of the cities to which they belong. Between 1970 and 2000, the number of families living downtown nationwide decreased 18 percent, with 71 percent of downtown households composed of single residents. (In Seattle, that disparity is even greater: Just 17 percent of downtown residents are families.) The number of families with children, meanwhile, dropped by 27 percent. In contrast, families comprised nearly 60 percent of overall urban populations. This is bad news if you believe, as Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbreuck does, that downtown Seattle will never be truly livable unless it draws a diverse mix of residents, including families.