The number that has gotten the most attention, however, has been 417,593-- the "metro area" population, which is the sum of Madison and Limestone County's populations. While the Times has run several stories proclaiming that Huntsville is now the second-largest metro area in the state, it is a bit premature to determine that. The new Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) definitions won't come out until the Summer of 2013, and only then can we officially determine whether or not we surpassed Mobile to become #2. That is doubtful however, considering that Mobile will probably (re?)gain Baldwin in the new MSA; even if Huntsville gained Morgan and Lawrence counties in the new MSA (population: 571,422), it still wouldn't be enough to surpass a theoretical Mobile-Baldwin MSA (population: 595,297).
The population junkies out there may enjoy this map compiled by The New York Times of Census 2010 data that has been released in the past month or so, visually showing growing and shrinking Census tracts and their demographics.
|Source: The New York Times|
- Five Points had the largest population decline of any city neighborhood in the past decade. Downtown also had a decline in population, mainly due to the loss of public housing. Lowe Mill, on the other hand, remained stagnant, nearly reversing years of population decline. Blossomwood, Oak Park, and even Terry Heights had slight population increases.
- Hispanics fuel growth on the Southwest side. Hispanics now make up 6% of Huntsville's total population. Much of this growth is in Southwest Huntsville, where one tract recorded a ten-fold increase in the Hispanic population.
- Southeast stagnates. Neighborhoods surrounding Bailey Cove recorded slight population declines in the past decade, while new home construction fueled growth in neighborhoods along the Parkway. My theory for the decline in older SE areas-- Southeast is aging, with more "empty nesters" (parents whose kids have moved off to college and beyond). You can see this phenomenon in other areas, such as East Madison, Southeast Decatur, and neighborhoods along Governors Drive. It is part of the natural cycle of a stable neighborhood-- once younger families begin to move in again (as can be seen in Piedmont and Jones Valley), the population grows.
What to watch for in the next ten years:
- Alabama's newest largest city. Birmingham, Huntsville, and Montgomery will all be around the same size in 2020 (approximately 200,000 each).
- Significant increases in urban neighborhoods. As "Millenials" (e.g. yours truly) come of age, urban living options will be more in demand. Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods will become hot residential markets, especially if the removal of the housing projects continues, and gas prices continue to rise.
- Suburban growth continues. It will be different, though-- walkable, mixed-use (Providence-style) suburban neighborhoods will become the norm, thus becoming more affordable. So-called cookie cutter subdivisions will become unpopular and appeal only to the lowest bracket of home buyers.