Saturday, October 21, 2000

Older towns losing people

Lure of new homes pulls families away

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A ripple of population decline centered in Cincinnati has spread to older, surrounding cities that are struggling to retain people as outlying areas swell with newcomers, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Friday.

        Cities like Newport, Norwood, North College Hill, Fort Thomas, Reading, Springdale and Covington have lost people since 1990. And only six cities nationwide lost more people than Cincinnati from 1990 to 1999.

        Yet the 13-county Greater Cincinnati region grew 7.9 percent during the same time, fueled by the allure of new development in the northern and eastern suburbs and Northern Kentucky. The fastest-growing cities in Ohio and Kentucky — Mason and Independence, respectively — are both in Greater Cincinnati.

    Here is how population shifted among Tristate cities with more than 10,000 people from the 1990 Census to the 1999 estimates released Friday. Note: Springdale had more than 10,000 people in 1990, but doesn't under the 1999 estimate.
Place99 pop.90 pop% change
Forest Park19,24018,5523.7
Blue Ash12,09311,8122.4
Fort Thomas15,00116,127-7
North College Hill10,08510,979-8.1
County 1990 population, 1999 estimate, % Change
1. Boone 57,589 83,356 44.7%
2. Brown 34,966 41,576 18.9%
3. Butler 291,479 333,486 14.4%
4. Campbell 83,866 87,203 4%
5. Clermont 150,094 178,749 19.1%
6. Dearborn 38,835 48,011 23.6%
7. Gallatin 5,393 7,437 37.9%
8. Grant 15,737 20,805 32.2%
9. Hamilton 866,228 840,443 -3%
10. Kenton 142,005 147,221 3.7%
11. Ohio 5,315 5,457 2.7%
12. Pendleton 12,062 13,959 15.7%
13. Warren 113,973 153,292 34.5%
        Growth outside the region's core has sparked pitched battles between developers and long-time residents who have seen their pastoral surroundings bulldozed and paved over.

        When returning to Greater Cincinnati in 1984, Helen Fox chose the quiet, rural surrounding of her grandparents' farm in Mason.

        Mrs. Fox said she's been surprised by Mason's rapid development. It has grown 84 percent since 1990, according to Census estimates.

        “Traffic is terrible here,” said Mrs. Fox, raised in Hamilton County. “We all moved out here for similar reasons, but now the suburbs are taking over.”

        The Census figures show more people like Mrs. Fox are leaving Hamilton County to buy newer homes or send children to suburban schools. Hamilton County lost 3 percent of its population since 1990 — the only county to lose population among Greater Cincinnati's 13 counties spanning three states.

        One half of Hamilton County's 50 cities, townships and villages lost people over the last decade. Yet some, like Symmes Township and Woodlawn, have boomed.

        Meanwhile, Boone County's population has soared 44.7 percent. And Warren County is Ohio's second-fastest growing region, adding more than 39,000 residents, or 34.5 percent, since 1990.

        Karen Garrett, Warren County's economic development director, said a key factor is the region's proximity to Dayton.

        “The location makes it very attractive for businesses,” because they can draw workers from Dayton and Cincinnati, Mrs. Garrett said.

        Business also has driven growth in Boone County. Block after block of new office and industrial buildings have popped up in Erlanger near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        Independence's low property taxes and large selection of new homes have spurred a 35.1 percent surge since 1990, the fastest growth rate of Kentucky cities with a population of at least 10,000.

        The city has been attractive to developers since a new sewer line was finished in 1996, said City Clerk Pat Taney.

        Cities on Kentucky's riverfront haven't had as much luck keeping people. Newport lost 14.1 percent of its population, Covington dropped 8.1 percent and Fort Thomas lost 7 percent.

        Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli challenged the Census figures, noting several developments are planned or under way.

        “Their count has always been wrong,” Mr. Guidugli said.

        Outside Cincinnati, Norwood lost the most population among Greater Cincinnati's Ohio cities. The population dropped 8.3 percent since 1990.

        Norwood Development Director Rick Dettmer attributed the decline to fewer people living in the city's houses. The landlocked city has no room for new housing development.

        He also said a “re-gentrification” of the city has seen many people buying and converting two-family homes into single homes.

        Census population counts are critical because they help determine federal funding for cities for community development, public safety and social service grants and programs.

        The estimates released Friday are from the 1990 Census, building permits, death records and other data. Initial results of the 2000 Census — a physical count of people based on surveys and home visits — will be released in March 2001.

        Cincinnati claims it loses $4.2 million in federal funding each year because the Census Bureau failed to count 11,000 people, mainly in poorer neighborhoods.

        It was the schools, location and convenience that drew Sarah and Matthew Barker to Mason. The couple relocated from Lexington, Ky., in September after Mr. Barker finished his doctorate and took a job at Procter and Gamble's sprawling research center in Mason.

        Several major stores are just minutes from the Barkers' house, and it is close to the P&G facility, Mrs. Barker said.

        “Mason has so much,” she said. “Everything's out here now.”
        Enquirer contributor David Eck contributed to this report


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