The Brookings Institution has just issued a new report, Who Lives Downtown, that tracks the growth pattern of the downtowns of American cities over the last three decades. While the 45 downtowns tracked in the study from 1970 to 2000 had a net gain of only 35,0000 housing units, Chicago's downtown alone has grown by over 20,000 residents, a 39.4% gain, to a total of 72,843.
Almost all that growth - over 16,000 people - occurred between 1990 and 2000. During the same 30 year period, Chicago's overall city population declined by 13.4%
Chicago's downtown has the highest rate of home ownership among the 45 cities surveyed - over 18,000 of the 44,638 housing units are owner-occupied. In all downtowns surveyed, the fastest growing segment is adults 25 to 34, while people over 65 and under 18 represent the biggest decline. Chicago's downtown is also very integrated compared to our cities. The only one of the survey's lists of the ten most and least white, black hispanic or Asian downtowns that Chicago appears on is that for Asian's, who comprise 8.4% of our downtown population - in Lower Manhattan, Asian's share of population is 41.8%. 67.6% of Chicago's downtown residents have at least a bachelor's degree, bested only by Midtown Manhattan's 71.5%.
Lest we become complacent, however, during the same period that America's downtowns added 35,000 people, our suburbs gained 13,000,000.