Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dallas Density Dropped (seemingly) - But did Dollar Density?

Greater Greater Washington just put up a series of maps comparing densities by census tracts in the 20 largest cities:

Their language regarding comparable cities of interest:

6. Dallas: Dallas' density dropped significantly. It has fewer dense tracts in 2010 than in 2000, and its peak is down to 44,000 ppsm from 57,000 ppsm.

7. Houston: Unlike Dallas, Houston appears to be densifying. Oddly, its densest area is not the core.

9. Atlanta: Not only is Atlanta shockingly sparse, its densest tract fell from 41,000 ppsm in 2000 to just 21,000 ppsm in 2010. The explanation? A downtown public housing complex was demolished, erasing the population of the densest 2000 tract.

11. Detroit: Detroit's peak density of 18,000 ppsm is about the same as in 2000, but the number of mid-density tracts in the 10,000-20,000 ppsm range declined significantly as the city continued to empty.

12. Phoenix: Central Phoenix didn't change much, and tops out at 23,000 ppsm.

18. Denver: Like a smaller Minneapolis, Denver looks much the same. Its peak of 23,000 ppsm is respectable for a mid-sized non-coastal city.

20. Saint Louis: Saint Louis' losses have been less drastic than Detroit's, but they still hurt. Its peak is down to a Tampa-like 13,000 ppsm, from 15,000 ppsm in 2000.

Dallas' numbers aren't particularly surprising given that the metroplex grew by more than a million over that time period and Dallas grew in population by a measly 8,000.  A number so low it hasn't been seen since the 1880's when Dallas grew from 3,000 to 10,000 (!).  If there is anything of interest in the map specifics it's that density in 2000 was largely related to more impoverished, outerlying areas.  Many of these dispersed while new, denser areas began to concentrate closer to the core in more walkable, desirable uptown neighborhoods.

By being more desirable/walkable (and spare) that also associates them with very high rents in contrast with the rest of the city.  Though it also isn't for the super wealthy.  The median income for much of the new uptown density isn't that high.  However, when you create mashups between density and median incomes, you see areas with greater purchasing power/quantity in the middle class, high density neighborhoods than the super wealthy neighborhoods of Highland Park.  I created comparable maps of parts of DC and New York where despite middling median incomes the dollar densities were off the charts.  Retail follows rooftops.  And its better for all if those rooftops are clustered in walkable conditions with less necessity for the direct and extraneous costs of excessive parking.

These are maps I call "desirability maps" because these people have the means to live just about anywhere, but they *choose* density:

If anything, these maps in the context of what they represent, prove density is 1) not a four letter word when done well.  2) The demand is so pent-up as to hyper inflate the price points in relation to the wider market. 3) Our transportation design, planning, and funding is not keeping up with the demand, which brings me to 4) the inability of the design, development community to deliver anything close to as well done as uptown since. Instead, it's mostly happening in haphazard, scattered, and disembodied efforts here and there throughout the city.