Counter to national trends, KC sees balanced urban and suburban growth

During the past 20 years or so, there has been a resurgence in downtowns in cities across the United States. Kansas City is no exception. Developments like the Sprint Center, Power and Light District, KC Streetcar and multiple housing structures have changed the fabric of downtown Kansas City, making urban living a more viable lifestyle choice for many residents.

A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests that the trend of growing downtowns is reversing itself. The article says that 14 of the 15 fastest growing large cities in the country are suburbs. It further suggests that millennials are behind this suburban growth, as they ditch downtowns to accommodate their changing needs.

But in the Kansas City region, we are bucking this trend with balanced growth throughout the metro, from downtown to the farthest suburbs.

If downtown — defined as the area from the Missouri River south to 31st street and from the state line east to U.S. 71 — was a city on its own, it would be one of the fastest growing cities in the metro. Between 2010 and 2017, the population in this area grew from 14,839 to 17,929, a 21% growth rate. This is comparable to, and in fact faster than, the growth rates in some growing small and mid-sized suburbs throughout the metro.

In addition to growing, downtown’s population is growing younger. In 2010, 28% of people living downtown were between the ages of 25 and 34. By 2017, this share grew to 35%.

Clearly, growth in downtown Kansas City has not yet run its course. It has been — and remains — one of the most actively developed areas of the metro.

But it’s not a zero-sum game, where downtown grows at the expense of suburbs or vice versa, as one might infer from the WSJ article. Our downtown growth is significant, but it represents just a portion of our overall growth. We’re also seeing significant growth in the suburbs, as the examples in the table above show.

This balanced growth pattern indicates the Kansas City region has something to offer people in all stages of life. Individuals and families have plenty of options to choose from in both urban and suburban neighborhoods. And when both are growing, our region is growing stronger.