Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Midwest Miscellany

Job Postings

A site called Indeed created an interesting graphic of job postings per capita in metro areas around the country.

In the Midwest Milwaukee was #1 (#13 nationally) and Cincinnati was #2 (#15 nationally). It’s interesting to contrast this performance versus the metro areas that are normally top ranked.

City Population Estimates

The Census Bureau recently released city population estimates. Here is how my core cities stacked up in terms of core cities gaining population, and core cities losing population. The change data is year over year, 2008 vs. 2007.

Gaining Population (by greatest percentage gain):

  • Columbus (+8,024; +1.1%)
  • Minneapolis (+2,989; +0.8%)
  • Chicago (+20,606; +0.7%)
  • Indianapolis (+3,517; +0.4%)
  • Kansas City (+1,888; +0.4%)
  • Milwaukee (+1,836; +0.3%)

Cincinnati and Louisville each changed by less than 100 people

Losing Population (by greatest percentage loss):

  • Cleveland (-4,265; -1.0%)
  • Detroit (-4,878; -0.5%)
  • Pittsburgh (-1,668; -0.6%)
  • St. Louis (-1,302; -0.4%)

Indianapolis, Columbus, and Louisville all have annexed large “suburban” areas so it isn’t an apples to apples comparison. The fact that Louisville as a city was flat despite it being a consolidated city-county government is troubling.

For Indianapolis, we can use the population of Center Township as a proxy for the old city. Center Township gained 403 people last year, marking the third consecutive year of growth and accelerating growth. Could this indicate an inflection point for the core city? Time will tell.

I consider core city population growth a key measure of civic health, particularly in underpopulated places like Midwest cities. It’s great to see so many Midwest cities actually growing, even if it is not at a rate that would repopulate their cores any time soon.

Top States for Business

This survey actually came out earlier this year, but Chief Executive magazine rated the Best States for Business in 2009. Here is where states with my city coverage list stacked up:

  • #11 – Indiana
  • #19 – Iowa
  • #23 – Kentucky
  • #26 – Missouri
  • #29 – Pennsylvania (welcome Pittsburgh)
  • #32 – Minnesota
  • #43 – Wisconsin
  • #45 – Ohio
  • #46 – Illinois
  • #49 – Michigan

Not an inspiring finish to say the least. California and New York were the two worst states. The best was Texas, followed by North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Given the economic performance we’ve in fact seen in these states, it’s hard to argue with the rankings.

Vanishing Fort Wayne

Vanishing St. Louis is one of the best blogs out there, chronicling the decay and demolition of the unique and historic urban fabric of St. Louis that is going on right before our eyes. Well, the author took a road trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana and produced stunning imagery that I hope he won’t mind my reproducing here. Please visit the main article on the lesson of Ft. Wayne.

Picture of downtown Ft. Wayne in 1960:

Downtown Ft. Wayne today, with all parking lots and garages, vacant lots, and empty lawn area shaded in red.

Indiana Government Center “Landscaping”

A reader sent in this photo he took of a man spraying what appears to be herbicide into concrete planters at the Indiana Government Center:

Here’s a shot of the results:

And what this looks like in context:

Think about how much more inviting this space would be if they actually planted things instead.

National and International Roundup

A major article in the Toronto Star suggests the bloom is off the rose for Richard Florida and his tenure there.

A must-read piece by Ed Glaeser in Forbes on how New York is the ultimate resilient city. (via @NewAmerContract)

FT architecture critic Edwin Heathcote discusses quasi-public space and architecture in his “The Devil is in the Retail“. (via @PD_Smith)

Even posh Mayfair in London has problems with vacant homes.

Shrinking cities look for innovative solution for a difficult transition (via Streetsblog)

Planetizen also weighs in on shrinking cities with a piece called “Don’t Fear the ‘Dozer

I may have mentioned this previously, but the National Trust for Historic Preservation is conducting a survey of mid-century modern homes in New Canaan, CT. It is great to see modern architecture getting increasing recognition as historically worthy.

More Midwest

Daniel Burnham Memorial: Design stirs spirits, but location stirs questions (Blair Kamin @ Chicago Tribune)
Architect Daniel Burnham’s vision still offers lessons (David Roeder @ Sun-Times)
The Second City is Becoming Second Home City (NYT)

36 Hours in Cincinnati (NYT Travel Section)

Second Ambassador span no longer needed (Detroit News)

City abandoned home plan: Fix it up or we tear it down (Indy Star)

Topics: Architecture and Design, Demographic Analysis, Economic Development
Cities: Indianapolis

11 Responses to “Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Indy Rock says:

    I am thrilled to hear you are covering Pittsburgh now too. As an Indy resident I spend a lot of time in Pitt. I've noticed a lot of postive growth in the city and other intangibles such as the upcoming G-8 summit there and the increasing hipster population there. Especially on their south shore.

    I'm curious as to what your comparions or thoughts are of Indianapolis compared to Pittsburgh. Sure they both are two polar opposite cities, however they both share a lot of common good things. And, also they both have their fair share of disadvantages and short-comings. Thank you!


  2. The Urbanophile says:

    Thanks, Erich.

    Pittsburgh is a Rust Belt city that isn't necessarily Midwestern, but has some commonalities. Heck, Penn State is even in the Big Ten now. I've only been there once and that certainly didn't do it justice. But it has gotten a lot of press for its resurgence in some quarters, so I thought I'd include it on the list.

    I don't think I know enough to really compare it with Indy, but as you say, they would appear to be radically different cities.

  3. Crossed says:

    A little dose of Roundup for your child when you drop them off for day care? Thats learning enhancement?

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Florida is foreclosure central right now. It may be good for doing business in terms of its tax structure and regulations (all this money not spent on schools goes to other causes), but it's economically hurting. The places that are doing well are the Rust Belt (with the exception of the auto industry cities), especially cities in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, and the non-bubble areas of the Sunbelt, especially Texas and the Interior West north of Las Vegas.

  5. Kevin says:

    I probably could generate a similar graphic for Indy. I'm not sure it would be much better than Fort Wayne. I might even include on-street parking spaces.

    This hurts me both ways, as a Fort Wayne native who's now nested in Indy. I just returned from a short trip to Bloomington. Now, there's a city where a person can get by pretty well without a car.

  6. thundermutt says:

    Aaron, you unintentionally raised a Big 10 point: the longtime in-state rival of PSU was Pitt, which would make it a logical twelfth Big 10/11 school.

  7. John says:

    I've appreciated the shorter posts as of late. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I tend to read blog posts during breaks or lunch at work. I tend to read magazines on the train, usually on multiple rides since my trip is only 20 minutes. This is why I like my blog posts shorter than my magazine articles. Maybe you should offer a print subscription? Or I guess I could just print out the website.

  8. David says:


    The population estimates for Louisville do not include all of Jefferson County. Total home county population of Indy, Louisville & Cinci: (2008 v 2000)

    Cinci 851,494 v 845,302 +.73%
    Indy 880,380 v 860,457 +2.32%
    Louisville 713,877 v 693,607 +2.92%

    The Census Bureau uses various 'city' definitions to come up with population but I think, regardless of city boundaries, a better way to view population changes is to look at the home county.

    For the cities you cover, it is hard to do for KCI, DTW and STL because those cities actually cross county borders.

    Perhaps the 'true-est' picture of population growth/decline would be the population within 10-15 miles of the CBD. While that view would have zero impact on Indy or Columbus (because they sit pretty much in the center of their home counties) it would provide a different view perhaps for Louisville, Cinci, St. Louis, Kansas City as each of those cities CBD's lie on the state border.

  9. JG says:

    DAVID: Others can probably explain this better, but I am going to post a link to Wikipedia that discusses a number called the Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is a census count that measures population in continuous areas of urban and suburbanization that cross city and county lines. It is similar to what you were discussing.

    It is very interesting to look at the population of a central city and then compare it to the MSA number. In fact in most circumstances when discussing city populations, I don't think those numbers should be reported independently. Many midwest cities have shrinking populations within their borders, but growing popultions in the MSA. It matters when considering the tax base needed to support city infrastructure and services.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think industrial heritage (and economic challenges today) does make Pittsburgh have a fare amount in common with some Midwestern cities and to some extent, culturally to, but overall it is aligned with other Northeastern cities, though it is somewhat different from them being detached from the 95 corridor.

    There are a few other Northeastern cities that share this – Erie PA which is really too small to discuss for the most part and Upstate NY with Buffalo and Rochester which would be on the smaller end of cities you focus on (though comparable in population to Louisville).


  11. The Urbanophile says:

    David, Jefferson County's population grew by about 5,000 last year. Very interesting that all of the growth happened in the excluded cities. What is this telling us, I wonder? Louisville's MSA growth is pretty healthy.

    I do think core city statistics are among the worse to compare cities one since jurisdictions differ so radically. And for densely developed center cities like San Francisco, it is difficult to materially boost population.

    Still, I think when assessing regional health, you have to examine the core city to see if it is successful, stable, or declining. If the central city is in decline, ultimately the life force will go out of a region. That's why I don't like the 10-15 mile from CBD measure. It is probably good for some things. But probably crosses lots of jurisdictional lines this doesn't measure core city health.

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