While Baltimore vows to grow, Philadelphia’s already done it

New U.S. Census Bureau estimates for the city of Philadelphia are out and their mayor is crowing about them:

They indicate the city has grown since the 2010 census, with a July 1 population of 1,536,471. The additional 10,465 people represent a 0.7 percent jump from the census count taken two years ago.

“It shows a continuing trend of population growth, and it’s just one more sign that Philadelphia is a place where people want to live, work and raise a family,” Mayor Michael Nutter said Wednesday, according to

Meanwhile, down the road in Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has made increasing the city’s population (by 10,000 families in the next 10 years) the official goal of her administration.

Baltimore lost about 30,000 people between 2000 and 2010, a 4.6% drop. That was an improvement on the previous decade, when the city lost 84,860 people.

Until government estimates come out, Baltimore’s population currently stands at the 2010 census total of 620,961. (It peaked at nearly a million in 1950.)

A closer look at the Philadelphia estimates shows that the city’s growth spurt from April 2010 to July 2011 was mainly due to an increase in births. When it comes to in- and out-migration, the city had a net decrease of about 650 people, the data showed.

Still, the new estimates are a continuation of the growth trend shown by the 2010 census. By contrast with Baltimore, Philadelphia showed a slight net gain during the 2000 to 2010 period, adding 8,456 residents.

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  • Unellu

    Philly is  currently a lousy place. Quality of life is nothing to brag about.  My daughter lived there for 8 years.  It is crowded–crime is bad–it is corrupt–the police are lazy–do not investigate crimes.  If you are robbed or mugged–forget it.  Your cry will be one of many in the wilderness of Philly– a thieves den.  Most importantly, the city does not welcome visitors.  The parking situation is a nightmare. I used to love Philly–now I stay away.  The public school kids there behave more like thugs than like students.  Visitors have been attacked by roving gangs of young students–springing out of nowhere and jumping unsuspecting walkers.  Philly is a soul mate of Baltimore.  It needs to bleed some folks and clean up.  Mayor Michael Nutter, is more appropriately called Mayor Nutty, if he believes that Philly is a city where people love to live and work.  I hope he has not concluded that babies have arrived in his city because they begged God for a Philly birth.  I’ll vote for the Baltimore Museum of Art over Philadelphia’s art museum–the latter is too darn expensive–Philly’s Science center–the same.  Most of Philly is unaffordable–Septa–the public transportation system–better than Baltimore’s– but has a proclivity to strike.  I don’t know why Philly has grown–the babies explain most of the growth–but, as I said before, Philly or Baltimore, you get the same deal–crime, grime, grittiness, nuttiness and never ending kvetching from debilitated citizens–victims of the East Coast’s speedy Gonzales, angst ridden, urban existence.  Baltimore actually has a superb art, movie, music and theater scene–just as good as, if not better than Philly’s.          

    • Marc

      If “crowded”ness is one of Philly’s most pressing problems, then I guess B’more should be thrilled it lost 30,000 more residents last decade! Hey, it’s a ‘roomier’ city now! Soon there’ll be desolate urban prairies and packs of wild dogs – my God if only B’more should be so lucky! That’s why mayors flocks to Detroit to revel in that thriving city’s spectacular roominess.

      Oh wait. “Crowded”ness and parking problems define the best urban neighborhoods; they’re practically prerequisites. Go see any of the most desirable urban neighborhoods in the US or the world – Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Society Hill, Barcelona, Paris – and you’ll find incessant parking problems and “crowded”ness. Those issues don’t ruin cities, rather they make them great.

      All the other problems you listed are definitely all too real – even though B’more arguably has it even worse – but “crowded” neighborhoods and parking problems are the least of Philly’s worries. IMO B’more could take lessons from the revitalization of Center City.

      • Steve

        Philly’s biggest problem is jobs in the city.  Post-2000 there is a ton of demand to live in the city.  There just aren’t enough jobs in the city for the influx of middle class workers (and those who commute in from the suburbs).  With greater demand of well-to-do Philadelphians and some movement in Philadelphia’s abysmal tax structure this city is going to get better and better.   (And with an Amtrak commute lasting and hour and ten minutes to an hour and 30 minutes with wifi it’s not unreasonable for those making six figures to buy an Amtrak pass for access to New York’s job market.

        • Marc

          Steve, that’s very true. I know several folks (and have heard of many
          others) that live in Center City (or in other improving areas) and love it, but have to do “reverse commutes” to jobs out in the suburbs. This seems to be an emerging phenomenon in several cities: many young people have flocked to the cores, but the jobs haven’t really followed them yet.

    • Steve

      I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about.  There are many areas of Philly.  North and areas of West Philadelphia is losing population as the people who can get out do to flee poverty and crime.  Northeast Philadelphia the former home of the white working class is becoming more ethnically mixed and poorer which is creating some tensions and making some of the areas slightly worse.  But Center City and its surrounding areas have markedly improved and is a great area to live–I live there.  You can walk to anything.  It’s hard to find free parking in Center City–so I pay a bit and it’s easy to find.  In my neighborhood outside of Center City it maybe takes 15 minutes to find parking from 5-10pm if I’m unlucky.  This would be a bigger annoyance if I had to do it every day.  But I work under a mile from my house and I enjoy my 15 minute walk to work every day.  Nice areas of Philly cost more per square foot than the suburbs but then my wife and I don’t need our car and definitely don’t need two cars–it will probably save us $2,000 a year if we sell ours and just rent/zipcar whenever we need one.  We also live in the catchment for public schools that can compete with most suburban public schools.  Our District as a whole has some horrendous schools but where you go depends on the area you live and you also apply to the charters you want.  Personally, I’d be as happy to send my child to my local public school and only the top two richest suburban districts are better than my local school.

      The most important thing for me that distinguishes why I chose to move from Baltimore to Philly is crime.  In Philly violent crime between two unknown parties is rare in the nice neighborhoods.  In Baltimore’s row home neighborhoods it’s less rare and there is more bleed through between good and bad areas.  I think Baltimore should and will prosper.  If you judge the worth of an area based on price per square foot and ease of parking cities will never win.  If you judge it based on can you walk to work and almost any store you need and do you have more restaurants than you could ever eat at right at your doorstep then you will probably like both Philly and Baltimore.

  • Unellu

    I know how Mayor Nutter and Marc will title this story: While Baltimore vows to grow Philly simply WOWS.  I beg to disagree.  My daughter was a resident of Center City and is now a resident of the infamous Back Bay. She arrived soon after the Center Center Rapist was caught and she left when rents were soaring in Center City, no one could afford to keep a car there and just before Philly’s first casino made its appearance.  As for Back Bay most recently Back Bay went dark for days when fire erupted in two of its aging transformers and cast a pall of smoke over Boston.  The infrastructure and the suprastructure there are falling apart.  Barcelona beats Baltimore with Gaudi’s whimsical art but Baltimore is marching along fine with its street art scene.
    Baltimore has the potential to be a great city.  It is incomparably eccentric.  Yes, it’s a fruitcake– exasperating but it is mostly always interesting.    

    • Marc

      LOL, a better title would be “while Baltimore vows to grow… its residents vote with their feet and vow otherwise.” Yes, Philly has a lot of the same problems as B’more (it’s like B’more’s equally-cranky older brother), but at least it’s grudgingly taking advantage of its emerging role as “the sixth borough.”

      If *only* B’more’s worst problems were a lack of Center City parking and burning transformers! (BTW B’more’s rents are rising too, its infrastructure isn’t aging well either, and it’s equally determined to bend over for the imminently-arriving casinos.)

      I don’t at all think some foolish art stuntery/doodadery (“street art”) means “Baltimore is marching along fine*” but I definitely do agree that Baltimore has the potential to be a great city!

      *How many times have murals been touted as “revitalization”
      silver bullets before? If “street art” really led to general improvement, then B’more should be
      world-class by now, it has so much of it!

      You are a piece of work, Unellu! :-) B’more is better with you, but I still think the city needs to move beyond the delusional “we’re doin’ just fine” attitude. After all, you can’t live off “eccentricity” and fruitcakey stunts forever: sooner or later they cart eccentrics off to the nuthouse (municipal bankruptcy and a cell in the statehouse in Annapolis).

  • Baltimoreplaces

    Baltimore needs to make population and tax base growth its #1 priority.  All decisions should be based on this.  Baltimore currently is very unfriendly and uninviting, especially for the middle class.  It really is a shame, people’s tastes are changing and want urban amenities for variety of reasons (more and more studies indicate this).  Baltimore with its devestating tax policies, poor services and wasteful and corrupt government continues to be overlooked as viable place to live for many people who would be an asset to the city and communities.  While the Mayor has said she wants to grow the city by 10,000, which is very modest, little has been done to reflect that this is a high-priority. 

    Urban politics are unique. What is truly best for the city and its people may actually decrease the chances of being re-elected by an under-educated and uninformed electorate, who in many cases don’t even understand how government works and where the money comes from (or care).  Baltimore power protects its own, pacifies the electorate, and bleeds the tax payer.

    • Still Fighting It

      You nailed it. Also, a closed political system where name recognition and some money guarantees election.  There is little opportunity (compared to other cities like Pittsburgh) for a young, passionate hopeful to get a foot in the door, fight the status quo and change things for the better.

      I used to think Baltimore had an economics problem. Now I realize the problem is mostly political.  In my darkest, cynical moments, I sometimes believe the major Baltimore political powers want to keep this city poor, uneducated and underserved just so they can hold on to power.

  • Steve

    Should have waited for a few days, I suppose.  The Maryland County (and independent city) estimates are out and show Baltimore at 619,493.

    • Marc

      Unfortunately the 2011 estimate of 619,493 is roughly ~1500 less people than the 2010 figure of 620,961. Of course projections are not predictions (many unforeseeable factors – like more downtown beatings/robberies/sexual assaults of tourists – might change the population flow for the better or worse), but if Baltimore continues to lose ~1500 people a year it will slip under the headline-catching 600,000 threshold before 2025.

      Of course statistics don’t necessarily explain much. An overall decreasing population figure could still be hiding improvements, like the dispersal/dilution of poverty to other areas and the growth of wealthy close-in neighborhoods.

      Even Boston hasn’t passed its all-time population peak of 801,444 of 1950 (only 617,594 n 2010 but growing slowly; it’ll probably surpass Baltimore soon and maybe it already has) but that city is arguably in far better shape today than it was in the malaise of the 50s/60s/70s.

  • Doug

    This article needs to ask “Why?”  There was a great Wall Street Journal article called “A Tale of Four Cities” than ran during the AFC Championship weekend comparing Baltimore, San Fran, Boston and NYC.  Since the ’70’s Baltimore had a series of property tax increases while the other cities all cut taxes.  The stats showed that the other 4 cities grew while Baltimore shrank. The article concluded that residents living choices were impacted by the taxes and Baltimore effectively chased residents out by sticking the shrinking number of taxpayers with higher taxes.  The other cities took a different approach and are much healthier.

    We should take our medicine, no matter how distasteful, and cut the budget, cut taxes and grow the city back to prosperity.  That is the only proven way we can bring the city back.  I am sure many advocates of “social justice” would cry foul, but I don’t know another way that actually works! 

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