Downtown’s population boom seen rolling on

May 18, 2010
Downtown’s population boom seen rolling on

Lower Manhattan has experienced a tremendous population boom over the last 15 years and still ranks as one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city, according to a new survey that will be released late Tuesday afternoon.

An estimated 55,000 individuals currently reside south of Chambers Street. That compares to just 24,000 in 2001 and a mere 14,000 in 1995, according to the latest survey by the Alliance for Downtown New York. As new developments emerged in lower Manhattan in recent years, the percentage of residents who own, as opposed to rent, their homes rocketed to 47% in 2009, from 40% in 2007.

“Lower Manhattan has become the residential neighborhood of choice,” said Elizabeth Berger, president of Downtown Alliance, who has lived in the area for 28 years. “People who moved to lower Manhattan as renters stay and become owners. Those who come single get married and have children.”

Almost two-thirds of today’s residents have lived in the area for five or more years and 88% said they plan to continue to stick around for at least another three years. Just under a quarter of households, some 23%, have children under 18 years old. That proportion is expected to rise as 40% of childless households indicate plans to have children in the next three years.

To cope with that growth, lower Manhattan will be getting two new public elementary schools as well as a public high school later this year. The area’s private school Claremont Preparatory School will also be expanding and creating a high school.

In addition, the first portion of the East River waterfront park, which will connect the Battery Maritime Building to Pier 35, is slated to open in October, according to Ms. Berger. The area also has access to 14 subway lines, 28 buses and six ferry terminals.

“People are drawn to places that have everything. They look for strong schools and public amenities,” she added. “We are no longer the frontier.”

The majority of lower Manhattan residents cited overall quality of life, quality of apartment, access to mass transit and safety as reasons for living in the area. While the of $143,000 median household income in lower Manhattan was pulled down by the recession, the median household income was still three times more than the city-wide median of $51,000 and more than double Manhattan’s median household income of $69,000.

“The growth in residential is supporting the commercial vitality of the area,” said Ms. Berger. The survey found that 40% of the residents actually work in lower Manhattan. Residents of the area also work in diverse fields ranging from finance to creative industries. In fact, about a quarter, 23% said they were self-employed.

Downtown Alliance hired PKS Research Partners to conduct this survey in the fall of 2009.

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