DENVER -- Some of Denver’s most densely populated neighborhoods have packed in more people since 2000, from Lower Highland to the Central Business District and Five Points to Capitol Hill. That much is well known.
But even after the revival of urbanism in Denver and other American cities, it turns out that most of those neighborhoods are, in fact, less populated today than they were in 1950 — which was when the last streetcar in Denver’s once-extensive network shut down.
Six months into a citywide planning review that’s aimed at resetting Denver’s course on several fronts, including land use and transportation, the city’s chief planner, Brad Buchanan, says such nuggets of context have taken him by surprise.
The dynamic holds citywide: Denver’s overall population density stood at nine people per acre in 2014 census estimates, not including the land occupied by Denver International Airport. Yet in 1950, a city researcher calculated, the city’s density was 9.8 residents per acre.
Of course, Denver has grown in land area since then, from 66 square miles to 154 square miles, including DIA. The city’s Department of Community Planning and Development says a more apples-to-apples comparison — looking within only the 1950 boundaries — found a population density in 2014 of 9.9 residents per acre in that area, or roughly the same as 1950.