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Posted on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

New report from DDA highlights 56% growth in downtown Ann Arbor population since 2000

By Ryan J. Stanton


Ann Arbor DDA

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has released its second annual State of Downtown report, highlighting a 56 percent increase in the downtown population since 2000.

"This growth aligns with nationwide census figures that suggest a growing interest in living in the downtown core," the report states.

There now are an estimated 4,849 residents and roughly 1,500 businesses in downtown Ann Arbor, according to the report examining the fiscal year that ended June 30.


Some of Ann Arbor's national bragging rights are highlighted in the Ann Arbor DDA's new State of Downtown report.

Ann Arbor DDA

The DDA's first State of Downtown report for the previous year estimated there were 4,167 residents downtown, putting the year-to-year growth at 16.4 percent.

The DDA posted the report on its Facebook page on Tuesday, though it appears to have been written months ago since it refers the new Zaragon West and Landmark student high-rises as "scheduled to open in the fall of 2012." Both began welcoming tenants around last August and September.

Zaragon West, at the corner of Thompson and William, brought about 200 new beds to downtown, while Landmark brought roughly 600 beds to the South University area.

Two other student high-rises — one proposed above Pizza House and one proposed on Huron Street — could bring about 175-185 and 533 more beds, respectively.

Two other apartment developments catering to young professionals — 618 South Main and Ann Arbor City Apartments — are in the works. Each could bring close to 200 more beds downtown.

DDA Director Susan Pollay said the new report was slated to be released last fall, but the DDA's focus on the Connecting William Street project kept it from being completed until last week.

The report includes an extensive collection of facts, charts and maps that help tell the story of a changing downtown Ann Arbor.

Here are some screenshots from the report:


Ann Arbor DDA


Ann Arbor DDA


Ann Arbor DDA


Ann Arbor DDA


Ann Arbor DDA


Ann Arbor DDA


Ann Arbor DDA

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Arno B

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:33 p.m.

As I would expect, most (23,000) of the increased body count is attributed to the UM. Big deal! One question which has always intrigued me but for which I have never found any rational answer is to explain the virtue of putting more and more people into a fixed space. Outfits like the DDA just think that it's wonderful. How many DDA employees live within the DDA boundary? Perhaps they should be required to do so; after all, the talented members of the City Council have to live in the wards which they represent!


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

How many of the 4849 are students vs permanent residents?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

In case anyone is curious, I asked how the downtown business count in this year's report went up to 1,500 from 1,200 in last year's report. I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea of 300 new businesses being added downtown, and it turns out it's mainly that the DDA was provided access to additional information this year that revealed there were more businesses downtown than previously thought. Apparently the DDA had an intern the year before who relied primarily on the Polk Business Directory. The DDA used that data source because it had been used in previous years by the DDA to record the number of businesses. The intern also did some checking of the Polk Directory through a walk around. The DDA then noticed that the Polk Directory wasn't capturing as many businesses as it had in previous years. "We suspect that as businesses and the business mix downtown changes and firms become smaller and more flexible (think IT firms in particular) that the directory wasn't as successful at capturing all downtown firms," said Amber Miller, the DDA's planning and research specialist. "As a result, this year we used our Polk data but cross-referenced it with data from the getDowntown Program and Spark. The result was a more robust list of businesses." Miller noted the DDA learned from Todd Poole of 4ward Planning that the office model today allows for more people per space, so to some degree the downtown may be seeing an increase, but the DDA doesn't have this documented. Miller said the DDA is looking every year to improve its data sources and method to capture a more refined snapshot of downtown.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

What 's the DDA's definition of a business. There are real businesses with customers and revenues. There are also endeavors that some label businesses that are really hobbies or attempted businesses.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

I wonder how the Polk Directory compares to DTE's records of businesses billed for electricity and gas usage?

Dog Guy

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

The recent homeless census could account for the estimated downtown population increase.

Milton Shift

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Ann Arbor is growing up.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

a2grateful makes some excellent observations. The DDA's original document must be checked for attribution of sources used to provide its statistics. The DDA should have included a breakdown of the demographics related to expansion in Ann Arbor's population downtown. What are the age ranges and occupations of new arrivals? How many were students who are transient and unlikely to patronize businesses off campus? Hopefully, the DDA will not use prior growth as an indication of future growth and to justify further development downtown. SEMCOG reports that Ann Arbor's population grew by only 1.7% between 2010 and 2012 and predicts that only 433 new residents will be added by 2020, a mere 0.4%. The University of Michigan intends to reduce its student population by accepting fewer new students each year. The opening of at least three more large student residence buildings in the next couple of years may prove that supply will finally exceed demand. People and businesses will continue to move in and out of Ann Arbor bringing changes and renewing dynamism and vibrancy. As an award winning city, Ann Arbor does not need to grow its population to remain unique and desirable.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

The Sun came up this morning over downtown Ann Arbor. Is the DDA also going to take credit for that? And there is internet available in downtown Ann Arbor. I suppose the DDA also made that happen. Just more self aggrandizing by the bureaucrats of the DDA. Disband! disband! disband!


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

I recently moved back downtown and LOVE it. I hope I never have to leave again. Totally worth paying the higher rent to live car-free and walk to 90% of my weekly destinations.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : midnight

Many people wouldn't save time commuting because they don't work downtown or even at the U. or medical center. Trader Joe's, Hillers, Meijers and other stores aren't downtown. There's no easy parking when needed. With the exception of Community High, where most teens can't go, there's no high school downtown. There's no middle school downtown. There could be an argument that there are elementary schools near downtown. While the "Y" is downtown, the Washtenaw County Recreation Center isn't. Ann Arbor is a nice place to have a lawn and maybe a garden. Most of my weekly destinations aren't downtown and that's true of most of my Ann Arbor neighbors, including those who work work on North Campus, at the medical center, or outside of the Ann Arbor city limits.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

I agree that if you look in the right places you can find less expensive housing downtown. The issue is that you might have to lower your housing expectations and live in an older house or apartment that's not as nice as some of the complexes away from town. It's all about lifestyle. For some, living downtown and walking everywhere is a big bonus. For others, they prefer having access to more green space or the neighborhood feel for their kids. Also, @Veracity: It really is possible to do most of those things you suggest in the downtown area. You can buy groceries and (some) hardware items. You can walk to parks. You can walk your dog to the Huron River or to Bird Hills.

Milton Shift

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

I also live downtown and love it here. I looked into living in the outskirts of the city, and Ypsilanti, and did the math - my savings would've been minimal, and it would've cost me a lot of time commuting. Of course, if you have a big family, you may need the more spacious living quarters you'll generally only find outside the downtown area.

Milton Shift

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

Groceries are the one issue we have with living downtown. If the old Border's became a grocery store we would be set. We do have the food co-op, which has great deals on produce and herbs/spices (though it is rather pricey on most other items). A grocery store carrying meat and dairy, and other goods such as flour and rice at reasonable cost, would fill in the gaps.

Milton Shift

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Note, aabikes said "live car-free." Cars are expensive to own and maintain, and the cost of gas and parking sure is a lot these days, so that really can cancel out the rent savings that come from living at the edge of town. You can get a one bedroom apartment downtown for around 800-900/mo if you look in the right places, and around the perimeter of the city, you'll be looking at 600-700/mo or so. Once you hit Ypsilanti, it drops to 500-600/mo. Also bear in mind that time not spent commuting is time that could be spent earning money.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

So downtown living works for you as well as the other 4,848 fellow downtownies (out of a total Ann Arbor 2010 population of 113,934). If you have a family with children and maybe even a dog then I wonder where you take them outdoors so that your children can use a park with swings and so that your dog has access to grassy areas. Will your children walk to school? Where do you buy your groceries and hardware items? You are also fortunate that you can afford the inflated rental costs downtown.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Wow DDA. Thanks. How much did this cost?


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

So, the downtown population is about 4% of the city's population. Why don't we pay as much attention to the other 95% plus of the city's population? Downtown is a nice place to visit, but downtown is *not* Ann Arbor. There is lots of a2 that is not downtown.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

@Sonny is of course 100% right. The "downtown centric" view put forth by the city "leadership" and doesn't reflect reality. No matter how many times they say it.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

The City of Ann Arbor "dda" (lower case intentional) would like to take credit for the population increase. However, dda had little to do with residential increases. Those increases are independent from dda effort. For example, consider the following, according to SEMCOG: City of Ann Arbor population 2000: 114,024 City of Ann Arbor population 2012: 116,249 Change: + 2,225 The biggest population change in Ann Arbor has likely been due to increased UM student enrollment. According to UM: UM enrollment fall 2000: 38,103 UM enrollment fall 2012: 43,426 Change: + 5,323 Without UM, Ann Arbor would have likely followed the State of Michigan's trend of net population loss due to migration. Thanks to UM, by not providing housing beyond freshman levels, their increase in students has allowed occupancy in existing real estate, as well as expansion in new development. UM student increases also translate to ancillary supportive business increases, as well as ancillary professional/academic population increases that bolster housing demand. So once again: Thank you, UM! UM is our true DDA. Let's be certain to give credit where credit is due. PS Your chart above does not include increased population by UM students in the dda area due to UM North Quad.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : noon

Number of employees should be expressed as FTEs (full time equivalents). There is no way that a restaurant/deli like Zingerman's employs that many people fulltime.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

How much did non-downtown population increase or decrease? How about the surrounding townships? Ann Arbor could be lagging in growth, but this is so circle-jerky you'd never know, since there's no actualy objective analysis. Fire the DDA! Oh wait. We can't!

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Here's a story we had two years ago looking at the changes the 2010 Census showed for each municipality in Washtenaw County:


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

Sure we can. We just do it indirectly by firing their supporters in the mayor's office and on council.

Susan Montgomery

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

South University is downtown? Madison too? I had no idea the DDA reached out so far...

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4 p.m.

The boundaries of the DDA have remained unchanged since the district was formed in 1982. It's very intentional that the district includes the Main Street, Kerrytown, State Street and South U commercial areas. And as you can see, the district also strategically extends down South Main, all the way to where the new 618 South Main development is proposed. There's an effort underway to better activate that area for pedestrians and have it be seen as more of an extension of the more-lively part of Main Street between William and Huron. That's why the DDA is kicking in $650K for streetscape improvements along South Main.