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Chicago’s population is shrinking, but it’s also centralizing

Written by
Kris Vire

Chicago is the only one of the 20 largest cities in the U.S. to have had its population decline in 2016—and it was the third year in a row Chicago saw a drop. That’s according to a Chicago Tribune report this morning based on recently released census data. The city lost 8,638 residents from 2015 to 2016, and Illinois as a whole had the largest population decline of all 50 states, losing 37,508 people in 2016.

But that’s not the only conclusion to be drawn from the new data, as several reports in recent weeks have made clear. The average population density in Chicago’s neighborhoods has increased by 1.2 percent from 2010 to 2016, notes Curbed, second only to Seattle’s 3 percent, while many of the metro areas that have seen net population increases, like Houston and Phoenix, have concurrently dropped in density.

While those cities sprawl outward, Chicago has been building up: As Chicago magazine’s Whet Moser wrote last May, it’s not your imagination that larger multiunit developments have been on the rise, so to speak, all over downtown and spoking out to near-central neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Logan Square; the stock of units in buildings of five units or more increased by more than 82,000 between 2007 and 2014, and high-income millennials are gobbling them up. And that’s not slowing down: As Curbed notes, developers are on track to complete 6,600 more new apartments this year across 33 new buildings, many of them the kind of transit-oriented developments cropping up along Milwaukee Avenue.

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