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City conversation | Lawrence’s population grows to more than 96,000 by 2023; a look at some surprising trends, plus area totals | News, sports, jobs


photo by: Shawn Valverde/Special to the Journal-World

Downtown Lawrence, looking north, is shown in this September 2023 aerial photo. South Park is at the bottom of the photo. The Judicial and Law Enforcement Center is the large beige building on the right.

Douglas County – compared to most of Kansas – is still a growth machine. But last year’s fastest turning wheel wasn’t Lawrence.

In fact, Lawrence had the slowest growth rate of any city or town in Douglas County in 2023, according to new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton all posted growth rates higher than Lawrence’s during the one-year period, which ran from July 1, 2022 to July 1, 2023. In other words, all of those cities saw their populations increase by a larger number. percent than Lawrence did.

However, Lawrence was still the city in Douglas County that added the largest number of new people to its population. Lawrence remains the most powerful magnet for the province, in terms of raw numbers.

But it’s worth noting that the latest Census figures show that all four communities in Douglas County are magnets to some degree. All four posted population growth in 2023, and that was definitely not the norm across the state. Across the state, 169 communities recorded population growth, while 340 communities reported population declines. In terms of the number of counties where each of their communities has experienced a population increase, that would take more digging than my shovel allows, but I can tell you that even prosperous Johnson County can’t make that claim. More on that in a moment, but first let’s look at some basic numbers for Douglas County communities.

• Baldwin City: 4,929 residents, up 22 or 0.45%

• Eudora: 6,466 people, an increase of 34 or 0.53%

• Lawrence: 96,207 people, up 376 or 0.39%

• Lecompton: 595 people, an increase of 3 or 0.51%

(Before we go too far, Lawrence’s numbers largely include KU’s student population. The Census Bureau counts people where they live most of the year.)

If you look back at 2020, all four communities in Douglas County experienced population growth over that three-year period. Here’s a look at those numbers.

• Baldwin City: increase of 109 people or 2.26%

• Eudora: increase by 56 people or 0.87%

• Lawrence: increase of 1,276 people or 1.34%

• Lecompton: increase by 3 people or 0.51%

A quick takeaway from Douglas County’s numbers: Everyone has better-than-average population growth, but no one is in the middle of population growth. In 2023, I’d say there were five notable cities that were in or close to booming. Three of them are not far from us.

Gardner, in southern Johnson County, added 1,182 people, for a growth rate of 4.89%. That city, which has BNSF’s major intermodal rail hub and a slew of distribution centers as neighbors, now has a population of more than 25,000. In 2000 – long before the rail hub came into being – Gardner’s population was just over 9,300. Ten or twenty years from now, will we look at nearby De Soto – home to the under-construction Panasonic electric vehicle battery factory – and see the same kind of population growth? That’s unclear, but it’s one of the more intriguing questions facing the region.

As for the other nearby cities showing boom-like numbers: Spring Hill, in Johnson/Miami counties, added 461 people, for a 5% growth rate; and Tonganoxie, in Leavenworth County, added 252 people, for a growth rate of 4.31%. Since 2020, Tonganoxie has grown from a community of approximately 5,500 people to a community of just over 6,100 people.

The other two cities that are a bit frothy are both in the suburbs of Wichita: Bel Aire added 718 people and grew to 9,537, a growth rate of 8.14%; and Corn, population 6,802 added 403 people for a growth rate of 6.3%.

Here are some other notes from the latest Census numbers:

• I’ve noticed strong growth in two communities in Johnson County – Gardner and Spring Hill – but in some ways their fellow JoCo community in Olathe may be the most interesting community to watch in the state. Olathe added 1,884 people in 2023, a growth rate of 1.29%. Since 2020, Olathe has added more people than any city in the state by far. Since 2020, 5,875 people have been added. The next closest community is Shawnee with 1,971. In other words, Olathe is the largest city in Kansas that is growing the most. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, accelerates or fizzles out as Panasonic sets up shop in De Soto. Lawrence should be interested. Will Olathe win over the bulk of all the new people moving to this region, or is Lawrence ready to get his fair share?

Certainly, the Census numbers show that Olathe can grow and has done so for a long time. In 1990, Olathe’s population was 65,352, while Lawrence’s population was 65,608. The most recent population figures show Olathe now has just over 147,000 people, or about 50,000 more than Lawrence. I’m sure there are many people who are fine with the fact that Lawrence hasn’t grown in the same way, but it’s still remarkable.

• Not everyone in Johnson County is growing. Something happened to the leader, Overland Park. With approximately 197,000 residents, Overland Park is still the state’s second-largest city. But the country lost population in 2023 and has lost population two of the past three years. The loss isn’t dramatic yet — a drop of just over 600 people since 2020 — but it’s a sign that things in Overland Park aren’t what they used to be. In the recent past, I’ve noticed that Overland Park has also seen declining sales tax numbers.

• It’s a very mixed picture for the state’s largest cities when it comes to population growth. Of the six largest cities in the state — Wichita, Overland Park, Kansas City, Olathe, Topeka and Lawrence — half lost population by 2023, and that number was nearly four out of six. I’ve told you about the growth of Olathe and Lawrence, and the decline of Overland Park. As for the others, Wichita only grew by 0.01%, or 56 people. Kansas City, Kansas, lost 305 people with a decline of 0.20%, and Topeka lost 24 people with a decline of 0.02%. That was actually a bit of a win for Topeka. The country lost its population much faster this decade. More than 900 residents have fallen since 2020.

• Manhattan belongs to the category in which not all predictions come true. Not long ago, Manhattan was expected to become a booming city when it established the National Bio and Agro-Defense Laboratory, which brought in tens of millions of dollars in federal investment and made it home to Kansas State University a center for research. of all types of animal diseases. But population growth has not reached that city. Manhattan lost about 130 residents in 2023 and 476 this decade. The population now stands at 53,682. In 2012 the country had approximately 56,000 people. The city’s population decline coincides with a decline in enrollment at KSU.

Here’s a look at some other notable cities in the area, with their current populations and their one- and three-year growth rates.

• Basehor: 7,719, up 2.25% in 2023; increase of 11.3% since 2020;

• Bonner Springs: 7,621, down 0.51% in 2023; a decline of 2.57% since 2020;

• De Soto: 6,539, up 0.93 in 2023; increase of 6.33% since 2020;

• Leavenworth: 37,034, down 0.1% in 2023; a decrease of 0.77% since 2020;

• McLouth: 835, down 1.18% in 2023; a decline of 2.34% since 2020;

• Oskaloosa: 1,080, down 0.28% in 2023; a decline of 1.55% since 2020;

• Ottawa: 12,686, up 0.64% in 2023; an increase of 0.38% since 2020;

• Overbrook: 984, down 0.4% in 2023; a decline of 1.99% since 2020;

• Perry: 851, down 0.12% in 2023; a decrease of 0.23% since 2020;

• Wellsville: 1,930, up 0.21% in 2023; a decrease of 0.87% since 2020;