Second Ward to Shrink
As I predicted, demographic shifts over the last decade have left the Second Ward much more populous than the average ward. According to the 2010 Census, 33,457 call Ward Two home, more than 4,000 more than the average ward. The only ward with more people in it is Seven. As you can see here (on page 18), every single Second Ward neighborhood added people over the past 10 years.
This is due to two main factors. The first is the increase in housing units in the Second Ward over the last ten years. More than 800 new dwelling units were built in the '00s, mostly in the areas around the U of M's east bank campus. A short, non-comprehensive list includes Yudof Hall, what was Melrose and is now the District, Jefferson Commons, U Flats, M Flats, Sydney Hall (the Dinkydome redevelopment), Van Cleve Commons, the redevelopment of former warehouses on 8th St SE into housing units and more. Some of these buildings (the District is a good example of this trend) include many units with five bedrooms, built specifically for students.
The second factor is the Second Ward's very low housing vacancy rate of 4.7%. Of the more than 12,000 housing units in the ward, only five hundred some are vacant. Again, the Second Ward comes in second - only Ward Eleven has fewer vacant dwelling units. (Ward Eleven is fascinatingly stable: in the past ten years, its population declined by... three people.) There are many reasons for this. One is demographic: many of the people who live in the Second Ward are renters, and many of those renters are either students at the U, who strongly favor being close to campus, or new American and other residents of large affordable housing buildings such as Riverside Plaza, the Cedars, Glendale, the Seward Towers, etc. Student and affordable housing is clearly quite stable, even in this economic environment.
Another driver of this low vacancy rate is the resiliency of Second Ward neighborhoods in the foreclosure crisis. Put simply, there are many more vacant, foreclosed homes in other parts of the city.
One last fact bears noting: thanks in part to the good efforts of the City and community leaders, a much greater percentage of Second Ward residents filled out the Census in 2010 than in 2000.
So what happens to a ward that has 4,000 more people in it than the average? It gets geographically smaller. Like it or not, the Second Ward we've come to know and love is going to shrink. To put the difference in perspective, Southeast Como has 6,288 people in it, the West Bank has 8,094, and Seward has 7,308. We're talking about Ward Two losing something between a third and half of a neighborhood.