The Recovery of Downtown vs Cleveland and Cincinnati Part #2- Update

Part #2 looks more specifically at the Downtown area of the 3-Cs.

**Updated with 2016 data. Originally posted in 2013.

First, let’s look at the total Downtown populations since 1950.

This graph, I think, will surprise most people. The first surprise is that downtown populations in 1950 were not nearly as high as most would have you believe. Cincinnati did have almost 22K people there, but even a city like Cleveland had less than 10K, and that was during the absolute peak of its city population. Another surprise is that Columbus was not always the lowest populated downtown and was more populated than Cleveland’s in 1950. Finally, the last surprise is that while all the downtowns are now growing, Columbus has regained 2nd place and Cleveland has seen the most growth so far.

What about tract trends for the downtowns? Well first, here are the population trends for each downtown.

For Cincinnati, Tracts #4 and #6 were combined into #265 in 2010.

So no city had a single Downtown tract that was not growing in 2010, and that trend largely continued through 2016. The drop of one of Cincinnati’s downtown tracts is probably an error of the estimates rather than a true, sharp population decline.

Here is the total population change by Downtown.

Finally, I wanted to look at more of the downtown area than just the central business district. “Downtown” for many includes more areas than that and may be a “Greater Downtown Area”, the measurement between the full 1950 boundaries and just the CBD.

Here are the tracts I considered to be the Greater Downtown area for each city.

Cincinnati: 2, 9, 10, 11, 263, 264, 265, 268
Cleveland: 1033, 1036, 1042, 1071, 1077, 1078, 1082, 1083, 1084
Columbus: 21, 22, 29, 30, 36, 38, 40, 42, 52, 53, 57

And the graph for the population of these tracts since 1950 through 2016.

Cincinnati reached it’s lowest population for the past 60 years for this area in 2010, but just barely. It grew slightly since 2010. Cleveland’s greater downtown had the bottomed out in 1990 and had the fasted growth the past decade. Columbus managed to maintain the highest population in its greater downtown, bottomed out in 2000 and has grown since. However, not nearly as fast as in Cleveland.

The Recovery of Downtown vs Cleveland and Cincinnati Part #1- Update

**Updated with 2016 data, originally posted 2013.

Columbus’ downtown has seen many many changes, especially over the last decade. Developments like the Arena District, Columbus Commons, the Scioto Mile and more have brought new life to the area. Dozens of new restaurants have opened the past year or two alone, and a new grocery store will be opening for area residents in February. More developments coming up include the Scioto River restoration project that will create acres of new Downtown park space and pathways, and the redevelopment of the Scioto Peninsula behind COSI should connect the two sides of the river. All of this had led to rising population, now approaching 8,500. Nearly 3,000 residential units are currently under construction or planned. So the question I was wondering is how has population been changing not only in Columbus’ downtown, but in comparison to Cleveland and Cincinnati. Both of those cities have also seen major projects in their downtown cores and are seeing an uptick in their downtown populations.

First, I examined the 1950 city limits for all three cities. This was the last census year before sprawl really took hold and changed the city dynamics and growth patterns. 1950 is also when most cities in Ohio reached their peak urban population, so I thought it would be interesting to see how those old boundaries had changed over the years. I went to the US census website and began to look up all the census tracts that existed in each city in 1950. Those would represent my base area that I would use to see the changes in the city core. All of the 3-Cs have grown beyond those 1950 boundaries, especially Columbus, but these areas were the hardest hit when the urban decline came the last 50-60 years while the suburbs grew. The results are both sobering and hopeful.

1950 Boundary Population Change 1950-2016
Cincinnati: -224,119
Cleveland: -540,935
Columbus: -138,491

1950 Boundary Population Change 2010-2016
Cincinnati: +1,370
Cleveland: -7,028
Columbus: +2,637

1950 Boundary Population % Change 1950-2016
Cincinnati: -44.5%
Cleveland: -59.1.%
Columbus: -36.9%

1950 Boundary Population % Change 2010-2016
Cincinnati: +0.5%
Cleveland: -1.9%
Columbus: +1.1%

So what do these numbers show? Well, it’s clear that all 3 cities had urban core population declines the past 65+ years just like just about every other city in the nation did. This was mostly a result of the suburban movement.
In Cleveland, the rate of loss had gradually been slowing down since the 1970s, but suddenly skyrocketed again in the 2000s. I’m not sure what exactly caused this. The double recessions made it more difficult for people to move, so if anything, the losses should’ve not accelerated. Cleveland lost over 90,000 people in its urban core from 2000-2010, the highest lost by % and total of any Ohio city.
In Cincinnati, population loss had peaked in the 1970s and the rate of loss fell substantially the following decade. However, the past 2 decades have actually seen a gradual acceleration of losses. The 2000-2010 period saw the second biggest total loss for the urban core, but there has been a significant turnaround (if estimates are correct) and the city is seeing growth now.
For Columbus, it’s been the opposite picture. Like the other 2-Cs, losses peaked in the 1970s. Since then, the urban core losses have been in gradual decline. The 2000-2010 period had the smallest rate and total loss of any decade the past 65+ years, and since 2010, there has been net growth.

So interesting results, but these numbers don’t show any trends of what’s going on inside the 1950 boundaries, especially not the relatively small part that would be the downtowns. So let’s break the numbers down to the tract level.

# of Tracts in 1950*
Cincinnat: 107
Cleveland: 201
Columbus: 48

*The number of tracts changed from 1950 on as some were split or consolidated. This made it more complicated, but luckily the Census gives lists on how tracts changed over time, so one can figure out what tract became what and reasonably keep up with the same boundaries that existed in 1950.

So with this breakdown, we can see more of the trends within the 1950 boundaries. In Cincinnati, a long decline was followed by a recovery in 1990, only to have the next 20 years show an increasing decline. The 2010 census showed the fewest number of tracts growing on record. This is the worst performance of the 3-Cs. Cleveland also had a steep decline followed by a recovery, but it too declined more at the last census, but not nearly to the low point it reached in the 1970s and 1980s.

Meanwhile, Columbus also faced an initial steep decline and barely had any tracts growing during the 1970s. Since then, the trend has been up. The 16 growing tracts in 2010 were the highest since the 1940s. This is the best performance of the 3-Cs, and Columbus had the highest % of growing tracts in its core. Still, those 16 represent less than 1/3rd of the total tracts within the 1950 boundaries. However, in the case of all 3 cities, the 2010-2016 has greatly increased the number of growing tracts, again if we are to believe the Census estimates.

The Recovery of Ohio’s 3-C Downtowns: Revisit

A little more than 4 years ago, I posted numbers on how Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland were recovering in their urban cores. See that post here: and here: That post has proven to be one of the site’s most popular. I figured it was time to take a look at their continuing changes.

You can see by the chart for the 1950 Boundary population, the urban core of each city, that all 3-Cs suffered population losses post-1950. However, the rate of losses gradually declined, and 2 of the cities, Columbus and Cincinnati, appear to be growing in this boundary since at least 2010. Cleveland continues to lose.

This is shown further by the chart below.

As far as the actual Downtowns of each, here are the population trends.

For the most part, population declines in the 3-Cs peaked around 1980, give or take a decade. Since then, all of them have seen increases, with Cleveland seeing the most rapid increase and Cincinnati the least. Columbus has seen steady, but increasingly rapid growth with each subsequent decade since 1980.

Here is the chart for Downtown growth by decade.

2015 County Population Estimates Report

The US Census has released its population estimates for both counties and metros for the year ending July 1, 2015. Here is a detailed look at Ohio’s counties.

Ohio’s Top 25 Largest Counties

1. Cuyahoga: 1,280,109….1. Cuyahoga: 1,263,796……1. Cuyahoga: 1,255,921
2. Franklin: 1,163,545……..2. Franklin: 1,234,126………2. Franklin: 1,251,722
3. Hamilton: 802,270……….3. Hamilton: 806,332……….3. Hamilton: 807,598
4. Summit: 541,671………..4. Summit: 542,600………….4. Summit: 541,968
5. Montgomery: 536,216….5. Montgomery: 532,515…..5. Montgomery: 532,258
6. Lucas: 441,575…………..6. Lucas: 434,615…………….6. Lucas: 433,689
7. Stark: 375,461…………….7. Stark: 375,638…………….7. Butler: 376,353
8. Butler: 369,064…………..8. Butler: 373,948…………….8. Stark: 375,165
9. Lorain: 301,471…………..9. Lorain: 304,187……………9. Lorain:305,147
10. Mahoning: 238,398……10. Mahoning: 233,398…….10. Mahoning: 231,900
11. Lake: 230,004…………..11. Lake: 229,220……………11. Lake: 229,245
12. Warren: 213,524………..12. Warren: 221,816………..12. Warren: 224,469
13. Trumbull: 209,854………13. Trumbull: 205,255……..13. Trumbull: 203,751
14. Clermont: 197,795……..14. Clermont: 201,375……..14. Clermont: 201,973
15. Delaware: 175,146……..15. Delaware: 189,237…….15. Delaware: 193,0134
16. Medina: 172,542………..16. Medina: 175,963………..16. Medina: 176,395
17. Licking: 166,480…………17. Licking: 169,407………..17. Licking: 170,570
18. Greene: 161,608………..18. Greene: 164,660………..18. Greene: 164,427
19. Portage: 161,448……….19. Portage: 162,235………..19. Porage: 162,275
20. Fairfield: 146,385……….20. Fairfield: 150,432………..20. Fairfield: 151,408
21. Clark: 148,246…………..21. Clark: 136,482……………21. Clark: 135,959
22. Wood: 125,940………….22. Wood: 129,575…………..22. Wood: 129,730
23. Richland: 124,173……..23. Richland: 121,914……….23. Richland: 121,707
24. Wayne: 114,439………..24. Wayne: 115,572………….24. Wayne: 116,063
25. Columbiana: 107,863…25. Columbiana: 105,597…..25. Columbiana: 104,806

From the numbers above, Columbus’ Franklin County was just below Cuyahoga last year. It is likely that, given each county’s growth rates, Franklin has now passed up Cuyahoga to become Ohio’s most populated county.

Top 25 Total Growth Counties 2010-2015

1. Franklin: +88,177
2. Delaware: +18,824
3. Warren: +11,601
4. Butler: +8,223
5. Fairfield: +5,256
6. Hamilton: +5,224
7. Clermont: +4,610
8. Wood: +4,242
9. Licking: +4,090
10. Medina: +4,062
11. Lorain: +3,791
12. Greene: +2,858
13. Union: +2,010
14. Miami: +1,718
15. Wayne: +1,549
16. Holmes: +1,543
17. Pickaway: +1,300
18. Athens: +1,113
19. Portage: +854
20. Hancock: +791
21. Geauga: +692
22. Madison: +664
23. Tuscarawas: +334
24. Morrow: +247
25. Muskingum: +216

Components of County Population Change

Top 25 Counties for Natural Growth (Births vs. Deaths) 2010-2015
1. Franklin: +50,736
2. Hamilton: +17,256
3. Butler: +7,785
4. Cuyahoga: +7,409
5. Lucas: +7,053
6. Delaware: +6,260
7. Montgomery: +5,007
8. Warren: +4,688
9. Clermont: +3,987
10. Summit: +3,194
11. Fairfield: +2,676
12. Lorain: +2,630
13. Holmes: +2,613
14. Wayne: +2,554
15. Licking: +2,482
16. Greene: +2,309
17. Medina: +2,040
18. Wood: +1,824
19. Union: +1,475
20. Hancock: +1,196
21. Allen: +1,115
22. Shelby: +1,038
23. Miami: +902
24. Putnam: +849
25. Huron: +815

Franklin County’s natural growth rate destroys every other county in the state. It gains almost 7x that of Cuyahoga County, despite Cuyahoga having a larger population during this period, and nearly 3x that of Hamilton County.

Top 25 Counties for Domestic Migration 2010-2015
1. Franklin: +11,715
2. Delaware: +10,532
3. Warren: +4,496
4. Fairfield: +1,691
5. Licking: +1,249
6. Medina: +1,234
7. Wood: +1,120
8. Pickaway: +711
9. Miami: +475
10. Union: +249
11. Madison: +246
12. Ottawa: +5
13. Clermont: -39
14. Morrow: -159
15. Morgan: -162
16. Monroe: -167
17. Washington: -177
18. Harrison: -198
19. Belmont: -221
20. Geauga: -320
21. Vinton: -361
22. Meigs: -401
23. Noble: -421
24. Van Wert: -431
25. Perry: -464

Again, Franklin County leads the pack, with Columbus metro counties performing the best statewide, as shown in the map below.

Top 25 Counties for International Migration 2010-2015
1. Franklin: +26,977
2. Cuyahoga: +16,926
3. Hamilton: +9,016
4. Montgomery: +5,380
5. Summit: +5,307
6. Butler: +4,066
7. Greene: +2,400
8. Lorain: +2,303
9. Warren: +2,198
10. Lucas: +2,194
11. Portage: +1,991
12. Delaware: +1,610
13. Athens: +1,586
14. Mahoning: +1,383
15. Wood: +1,026
16. Stark: +881
17. Lake: +729
18. Fairfield: +658
19. Clermont: +612
20. Medina: +578
21. Tuscarawas: +468
22. Wayne: +408
23. Licking: +404
24. Allen: +375
25. Miami: +359

Most Ohio counties saw increases in international migration, but once again, none came close to Franklin County’s total.

So there you have it, the updated numbers for Ohio’s counties.

Columbus’ Shrinking Annexation

Ever wonder how Columbus got so big in area? Its city limits stretch into parts of other counties and include about a third of Franklin County. Today, it has a reputation for annexing its way to growth, but how true is this?

Well, 50 years ago, it was more or less true. Today, not so much. Aggressive annexation began in Columbus in 1953, when Mayor Maynard “Jack” Sensenbrenner began his policy of requiring annexation into the city if communities wanted city water service. Between 1953 and 1960, the area size of the city more than doubled, and that rate continued through the 1960s and 1970s, even after Sensenbrenner was no longer mayor. After 1980, annexation rates gradually began to decline.

As the chart above shows, you can see the rapid rate of growth during the 1950s-1970s and the decline in more recent decades. Through the first 5 years of the 2010s, Columbus is on pace to add fewer than 3 square miles by 2020. Despite that fact, the city’s annual population growth since 2010 is exceeding the average annual growth of any decade during the mass annexation years. This strongly supports that the dynamic, and indeed, the story of Columbus’ growth is no longer about “fake” growth through the addition of existing land and population, but rather though the influx of new residents from outside of the city limits altogether. This is helping to gradually raise the city’s population density, which exceeded Cincinnati’s last year, as the chart below shows, along with a few other Columbus peers.