Populations decline in 26 Twin Cities suburbs

12:36 PM, Mar 24, 2011   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Much of the chatter about the latest census data highlights suburban growth, but a record number of Twin Cities suburbs actually saw declines.

The 2010 census data released last week shows that 26 suburbs, including Bloomington, Wayzata, Minnetonka, Falcon Heights and Roseville, lost residents. That's twice as many population declines as in the last census.

Many of the suburbs losing residents border Minneapolis and St. Paul, mirroring population trends seen in city neighborhoods a generation ago.

State Demographer Tom Gillaspy told the Star Tribune it's likely the result of aging populations in those areas, with children growing up and moving away. Suburbs have a life cycle: building and population boom, years of stability and then declining family sizes.

"It gets down to the point where the process stalls out and they reach their minimum point, when families are really getting old," Gillaspy said. "The closer in the suburb is, the nearer it is to that transition point."

Other experts say it could be the result of aging housing stocks.

In Minnetonka, for example, three-quarters of the city's houses are more than 30 years old and call for expensive repairs. After growing 6 percent in the 2000 census, its population shrunk 3 percent by 2010. The city is considering loans to help middle-class residents spruce up aging homes or buy new ones.

Bloomington, the most populous suburb with nearly 83,000 residents, has shrunk over two census counts, even though it added 537 housing units in the past 10 years. The city's acting planning manager, Glen Markegard, said it's probably because of high housing vacancy rates and smaller households as children grow up and move away.

In all, the seven-county metro area grew by nearly 8 percent from the 2000 census, driven by suburban growth elsewhere. Many of the communities that are growing are doing so because of minority homeowners.

Richfield, which grew by more than 2 percent by 2010, has had a strategy since the mid-1990s of building senior housing developments. Community Development Director John Stark said this keeps aging adults in the city and makes way for younger families.

"Our housing starts stopped around 1968," Stark said. "If you just sit back and let things happen on their own, you're going to keep losing population. You have to have a strategy to affect where your population is going."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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