Indiana’s four largest cities see population surges

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A new report by an Indiana University research group says Indiana's four largest cities are in the midst of some big population increases.

The Indiana Business Research Center report says Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and South Bend all saw population increases between 2010 and 2013 significantly larger than seen in previous years. The report released Thursday is based on U.S. Census Bureau population estimates the IU group analyzed.

The authors say Indianapolis added an average of about 7,200 residents annually from 2010 to 2013, nearly twice its pace from 2000 to 2010. Indiana's capital now has a population of about 843,000.

Fort Wayne had seen flat population growth, but it grew by nearly 900 residents annually from 2010 to 2013 and is now home to roughly 256,500 people.

Overall, Indiana’s population grew 0.51 percent in 2013, up from 0.33 percent in 2012. The state’s growth rate had declined for six consecutive years before 2013. 

Indiana ranked as the 30th fastest-growing state last year, and its growth rate outpaced each of its neighboring states.

Among counties, Marion County had the largest population rise in 2013 in terms of pure number, with an increase of 9,394 residents. It was Marion County’s largest one-year increase since 1992 and more than twice the county’s average annual increase between 2000 and 2010.

The state's other top gainers in 2013 were Hamilton (7,294), Hendricks (3,071), Allen (2,518) and Tippecanoe (2,388) counties.

Marion County ranked as the country's 54th largest county (out of 3,141 counties) in 2013, with 928,281 residents.

The state's next largest counties were Lake (491,456), Allen (363,014), Hamilton (296,693), St. Joseph (266,709) and Elkhart (200,563).

Indianapolis Downtown Inc. spokesman Bob Schultz said a building boom has boosted the city's residential units by 89 percent in the last five years and another 3,500 units will open by 2017.

The development group researched who's moving into downtown and found 38 percent are coming to the city from outside of Indiana and most are millennials — the children of baby boomers who came of age in the new millennium — and empty nesters. Another 26 percent were moving to downtown from counties outside of Marion County.

Schultz said young professionals who work at IUPUI just west of downtown or in the city's growing life sciences industry are drawn downtown because of the shopping, restaurants, bars and mass transit options. Many don't have cars, he said.

"They want to live in an urban core, where the action is, and they want to be close to where they work," he said.

Indiana's second-largest city, Fort Wayne, had essentially experienced flat population growth from 2000 to 2010, but the IU report found its population grew at an average annual pace of nearly 900 residents from 2010 to 2013, when it had about 256,500 residents.

The northeastern Indiana city's economy is on the upswing, spurring downtown projects, said Mary Tyndall, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne's community development office.

And big local employer Ash Brokerage recently announced it will build its new headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne as part of a larger $98 million development set to open in 2016 with condos and parking garages, Tyndall said.

"Our downtown is really booming. There's a lot of momentum for Fort Wayne and certainly the economy has picked back up over the last three, four years," she said.

Evansville, which had a 2013 population of 120,310 residents, grew by about 80 residents per year in 2010-2013, compared to an average annual decline of 420 residents from 2000 to 2010.

South Bend continued losing population during 2010-2013 at a pace of nearly 45 people a year, but that's a big improvement from the nearly 700 residents lost annually from 2000 to 2010, the IU report found.

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