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Real demographics: Denver

The next installment of my effort to shed light on the actual demographics of the US, as opposed to media narratives, takes place in Denver. Denver is the #7 city on Forbes' list of Best 25 cities and neighborhoods for Millennials. 

For background on this series, click here.

For my purposes I've used the 5 biggest counties in Denver metro for this piece: Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson. They comprise just north of 2.4 million people, and the 2010 census metro population is just a bit bigger at 2,543,482. 

So, for Denver, here's the population breakdowns by age.

I've highlighted the two agree groups that clearly dominate the city's population

I've highlighted the two agree groups that clearly dominate the city's population

In the metro, there are four age cohorts that are almost equal, comprising between 14.2 and 15.2% of the population.

In the metro, there are four age cohorts that are almost equal, comprising between 14.2 and 15.2% of the population.

So, what this all show?

For one, Denver's age breakdown is VERY balanced in the metro. The city skews younger, but even in the city the 30-49 population is a bit larger than the 10-29 population.

Just like last time, let's make it real: 

Using this study I'm going to make a big leap to assume 50% of the region wants walkable and 50% doesn't. Of the 50% that want walkable, I'm going to further estimate (based on my experience) that about 20% of them want big-city urban, 30% want small-city urban, and 50% want small town urban. For more on those categories, click here.

So by those numbers, I have 50% that want either suburban/exurban/rural living, 10% that want true downtown living and 40% that want small-city or small-town urban. 

The 2010 census numbers have downtown Denver with a population of about 17,000. So, just in the city of Denver it only has 2.8% of the market. In the region that shrinks to less than 1%. As with San Diego, though downtown development has been strong the last few years it's still dramatically under-performing in the market. At 10% of just the city market, it should have a population of around 60,000. In terms of the region (which I think is the correct measure) it's over 250,000. Great opportunities for attracting a true city center market abound.

The small city and small town urban market is much more difficult to quantify since it would take a fair amount of study to determine which existing neighborhoods meet that criteria. But as previously my educated guess would be that that market is under-performing as well, though probably not as much as downtown on a percentage basis. What I can say is that by looking at the regional market the approximate population of people who are customers for those sub-markets is just north of one million people.

I'll repeat what I said for San Diego: So, planners and urbanists, take your shots. Even in a city that skews young, you aren't going to find that many 20-somethings or baby boomers. And in point of fact, the "boomer" market is really not all that big (since let's be honest: they're dying off). So, where will you find them? Perhaps it's time to look at those 30, 40 and young 50-somethings as well. Just keep in mind, they have different needs and desires.

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