Lisa Ryckman, Rocky Mountain News, August 8, 2007
Denver’s white population has slipped below 50 percent for the first time, making it the largest county in the nation to experience that change in the past year, census figures released today show.
But for State Demographer Elizabeth Garner, the big news is that 2006 marks the first time in 17 years that Denver has had more people moving in than moving out. And some residents who might have been inclined in the past to move out are choosing instead to move up.
“About seven years ago, the trend started turning around, but this year, we had a net 2,385 increase, the first time it’s been positive in a while,” Garner said.
The reason: new housing for families, empty-nesters and young professionals in places such as Stapleton, Lowry and Platte Valley, she said. “More people can stay.”
From 2000 to 2006, 303 counties nationwide—nearly one in 10—saw their white populations decrease below majority status. And while white flight to the suburbs might have been to blame in many areas, Denver wasn’t among them. In fact, the latest figures show that Denver actually lost the smallest percentage of white residents of any of the metro-area counties.
The white population’s slide into minority status was by the slimmest of margins—76 people. Denver had been inching toward that milestone for years, with Hispanics and Asians rapidly catching up to the white population. In fact, in 2004, the Census Bureau issued a report saying that the changeover had occurred, but once the figures were adjusted, it appeared that threshold had not yet been crossed.
The diversity fostered by lower housing costs comes together in Green Valley Ranch near Denver International Airport, where developer Pat Hamill’s Oakwood Homes has houses starting in the mid-$100s. Those prices, along with desirable schools and recreation opportunities, have drawn young families of all races.
“We consider it one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the entire city,” said Kelly Leid, who heads Hamill’s Foundation for Educational Excellence. “You can live in the city and county of Denver and have a little more of a suburban feel, but you still get the benefits of living in the city.”
Kallenberger said that Denver is becoming a premier urban core area, with the kind of cultural amenities, sports events and cutting-edge developments that make city living attractive.
“Denver’s doing a lot of things right,” he said. “When I moved to Colorado in the mid 70s, Denver was always talked about as a cow town. I used to refer to it as ‘Omaha by the Rockies,’ because that’s how people felt about it. But we’re all grown up now.”