Metro Population Growth Shifts From ‘Burbs to Urban Core

Suburbs have historically led the seven-county metro area’s population growth, but the trend reversed last year with Minneapolis and St. Paul achieving significant gains.

After years of losing residents to the suburbs, the core cities within the seven-county metro area appear to be making steady gains when it comes to population growth.

Population in the seven-county metro area grew 0.8 percent to 2.87 million between 2010 and 2011, according to estimates released Monday by the Metropolitan Council. Minneapolis and St. Paul together accounted for 28 percent of the metro area’s population growth during that period—greater than the portion accounted for by individual suburbs.

Developing suburbs—including Woodbury, Blaine, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Lakeville, and Shakopee—collectively accounted for 39 percent of the growth; meanwhile, fully-developed suburbs—including Bloomington, Apple Valley, Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Maplewood, and Edina—accounted for 29 percent.

Minneapolis grew by 5,295 residents in 2011 to 387,873, leading the metro area in terms of number of residents added. It was followed by St. Paul, which grew by 1,299 to 286,367.

In previous years, fast-growing suburbs have achieved the largest gains, the Met Council said.

Meanwhile, Woodbury, which grew by 1,182 to 63,143, was the top-growing suburb. It was followed by Blaine, which added 1,145 residents to grow its population to 58,331.

Met Council demographer Todd Graham said in a statement that much of the population growth in Minneapolis and St. Paul can be attributed to the development of more multi-family housing units in the two cities.

“Housing vacancy surveys show greater interest in rental housing,” Graham added. “What we don’t know is whether that’s what people really want. It is possible households are choosing rental apartments because of limited financial resources.”

The shift in population growth from suburbs to core cities is reportedly part of a national trend. Based on Census Bureau estimates released last month, an analyst with the Brookings Institution calculated that cities across the country are outgrowing suburbs for the first time in 100 years, according to a Star Tribune report.

“This is a tipping point, a watershed moment,” Jim Erkel of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy told the Minneapolis newspaper.

However, Graham said that “we need to be cautious about inferring trends from one year.”

The Met Council is a regional planning organization that runs the metro area’s bus and light-rail system, as well as the Northstar commuter rail; collects and treats wastewater; coordinates regional water resources; plans regional parks; and administers funds that provide housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families.