Downtown Minneapolis’ population has exploded over the past decade, propelled by millennials and empty nesters who are embracing the urban lifestyle.

More people moved downtown last year than any other in the past decade, expanding the city’s core by 2,592 residents, according to estimates from the Downtown Council, a business group. About 43,000 residents lived downtown in 2017, a 32 percent jump from 2007.

Downtown’s postrecession resurgence shows no sign of cooling off, as seniors downsize to riverfront condominiums and young people embrace an explosion of restaurants and nightlife in the North Loop.

“You want to go to a world-class theater? A world-class orchestra? You go tonight,” said John Campbell, 64, who moved into Abiitan Mill City in the Mill District early last year. “In New York, you don’t do that.”

Diane Robinson, 84, moved into Abiitan when it opened in late 2016. She recalled walking downtown with a friend before deciding to move there.

“We’re walking along 2nd Street and I said, ‘Sarah, it’s so young.’ And she said, ‘Diane, that’s good,’ ” Robinson said.

Younger people are making downtown their home as well. The median age in downtown’s two primary ZIP codes is early 30s, more than a decade younger than in many suburbs, according to 2016 census data. On the west side, almost 42 percent of residents are between 25 and 34.

City Council Member Steve Fletcher, who lives in the Mill District, said the density of condos and apartment buildings supports more businesses, which in turn attracts more people. “The more people who move in, the more businesses we get and the more fun it is to be here,” he said.

But not all is rosy. The Downtown West neighborhood consistently has the highest number of crimes month after month compared with other Minneapolis neighborhoods. In December, 170 crimes were reported, with most (133) being larceny. Thirteen burglaries were reported and six aggravated assaults. Crime in the Downtown East neighborhood is about on par with a dozen or more other neighborhoods in the city, with 25 crimes in December.

An analysis last year by the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota found that, using different boundaries, downtown’s population is nearly as large — or perhaps larger — than it was when the city hit its peak population in 1950.

The council’s downtown boundaries generally follow the freeways that ring the city center, covering popular areas like the North Loop, Mill District and Downtown East. It also includes areas just across the river, like St. Anthony Main. They were tweaked around 2010, so the growth numbers are not a perfect comparison, said Mary Bujold of Maxfield Research, whose firm calculates the population for the council largely based on building occupancy information.

Much of the latest jump is due to four new residential buildings, Bujold said. They are Maverick Apartments on Hennepin Avenue, Variant Apartments in the North Loop, Abiitan Mill City in the Mill District, and Spectrum Apartments in Marcy-Holmes.

“Projects that are opening are continuing to fill up,” she said, adding that more units are expected to open this year.

“It’s continuing until we overbuild the market, which will happen,” she said, predicting that higher interest rates could temper the growth before then. It is also dependent on how high rents will climb before people cannot afford them, she said.

“We’re already up to close to $3 a square foot. What’s happening is the unit sizes are continuing to shrink,” she said. “But that’s not too popular with empty nesters. Empty nesters don’t want to come downtown and live in a 400-square-foot unit.”


Staff writers Kim Palmer, Pat Pheifer and Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune, contributed to this report.