Young adults, empty nesters driving Huntsville’s recent population growth

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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Huntsville’s efforts to attract more young professionals appear to be paying off.

The “2013 Huntsville Development Review,” released Wednesday, says the Rocket City’s young adult population has grown 27 percent since the 2000 Census. The number of seniors jumped 21 percent during that same period.

City officials held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to talk about how the shifting demographics affect plans for roads, greenways and other infrastructure.

Developers seem to be responding to the trend by building more apartments and condominiums. City demographer Connie Graham said Huntsville has averaged 750 new multi-family housing units over the past two years.

Graham said the highest concentrations of young adults – defined as 20-34 years old – are found in the census tracts that include Redstone Arsenal, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, the Village of Providence and the Martin Road-Zierdt Road area near the airport.

“They want easy access to shopping and entertainment and walkability,” she said.

By contrast, “empty nesters” aged 60 and over are most commonly found in the census tracts that include Jones Valley, downtown, north Huntsville, the east side of Aldridge Creek and Green Mountain.

Huntsville remains the fastest-growing large city in Alabama, said Graham. The 2013 population estimate — 187,413 – is up 4.1 percent from the 2010 Census.
Dennis Madsen, the city’s manager of long-range and urban planning, said the spike in apartment and condo construction means more people without yards of their own who will want access to parks and greenways.

Huntsville needs to provide “the amenities and activities that young professionals and boomers are looking for to get them to stay here and continue to invest here,” said Madsen.

Mayor Tommy Battle said the city is working hard to keep ahead of the population growth by building new and wider roads. Martin Road, Zierdt Road, Old Madison Pike and U.S. 72 East over Chapman Mountain are all either now or soon to be under construction.

“We have probably more road building going on than we’ve had in the history of Huntsville, ever,” said Battle.

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