Growth! It isn't just 'coming', it is here!
Census: Provo-Orem metro area seventh in nation for population growth
Growth, it isn’t coming, it is here.
Skeptics who don’t believe all the talk about Utah’s population growing on a fast track should pay attention to the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers.
The Provo/Orem metro area, essentially Utah County, has increased in population over the past year just short of the same amount as what the Marriott Center holds, 19,000, according to the bureau report.
According to figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Provo/Orem metro area is the seventh fastest growing area in the United States.
In 2015, the population was 585,362. In 2016, that number jumped to 603,309, according to the Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau report indicates that a good portion of the growth came from within the area citing 12,347 births and only 2,343 deaths. International migration to the area was 872.
Two other locations in Utah were in the top 20 in growth. St. George was No. 6, and Logan came in at 20.
Coming in as the No. 1 fastest growing metro area in the nation was The Villages, about 50 miles northwest from Orlando, Florida.
The Villages’ growth beat Utah County by a few thousand. It is a large retirement community with 35 nine-hole golf courses and 12 championship courses, 1,900 social clubs, 100 tennis courts and all things 55 and over.
In Utah County, the housing market is not being able to keep up with demand, according to Wayne Parker, Provo’s chief administrative officer.
“There is a housing shortage along the entire Wasatch Front,” Parker said. “A lot of investors are buying up homes and anticipating flipping those homes.”
While Provo may not be growing faster than Lehi or Saratoga Springs, Parker says their growth highly affects Provo and Orem.
“We are the health center, the education center and the government center of the county,” Parker said. “We’re still the hub of the county. We will have the traffic flowing through from the suburban ring of towns.”
Parker added, “Provo/Orem combined is bigger than Salt Lake City. This creates extra demands. That is why we have to have things like BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).”
As for what is going on around the county, one of the fastest growing hot spots is just west of Provo and Orem, in Vineyard.
“When you combine a great economy, larger-than-average family sizes, and one of the most beautiful landscapes in the nation, there is no way to avoid growth,” said Steven Downs, Orem spokesman. “While growth has its challenges, we also know the fate of communities that stop growing. It typically results in job loss, abandoned buildings, and other challenges. As we work together as a county to plan for the growth, we are confident that we can grow in a way that preserves single-family neighborhoods, but also allows for adequate housing, jobs, and infrastructure for the future.”
Downs added, “We aren’t ignorant to the fact that some in our community are frustrated with the number of apartments that have been built in the last handful of years. It is always a difficult balance to provide adequate housing. However, with the occupancy rates remaining near all-time lows, it is safe to say that there is no data to suggest that Utah County is ‘overbuilt’ in regards to housing.”
Vineyard is one of the newest of the old towns currently booming in Utah County. The new Vineyard Connector road connects the rest of the county to one of Vineyard’s newest master-planned communities, Waters Edge. The area comprises roughly 275 acres of planned residential homes of all sizes, and is already dynamic, with a lived-in feel, though it’s only been under construction since mid-June of 2016.
Vineyard has the potential, like Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs had only a few years ago, of almost starting from scratch. For decades, only a few residents called Vineyard home, sharing the land with agricultural farms and Geneva Steel. But Geneva Steel’s departure led to a rebirth of the area.
Nowhere has growth been more apparent than along the Interstate 15 corridor in Lehi, where several new multi-story buildings now dot the landscape as the area continues to embrace its Silicon Slopes moniker.
With those new businesses came thousands of new residents to Utah County, shown in the booming populations of Lehi and neighboring northern Utah County bedroom communities such as Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain — which, in turn, added their own commercial developments to complete the growth cycle.
Just take a quick drive around Provo and Orem and you’ll see several new apartment buildings and single-family homes popping up.
The southern part of the valley is expected to be the next place to be, according to a recent Utah County leadership conference, and is anticipated to be on par and potentially surpass Lehi business and residential growth in less than 20 years.
For Spanish Fork residents, access to a theater, sit-down restaurants and more stores has been long waited for, as the town has burgeoned from a population of 20,000 in 2000, to 38,000 in 2015.
Woodbury Corp. (owners of University Place in Orem) and its partner, WPI Enterprises, announced in mid-March via press release that 245,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space will be added to the Canyon Creek Shopping Center in Spanish Fork, including up to 45 new retail tenants upon completion.
The Utah County real estate industry ended 2016 with 6,564 single-family home sales and a volume of more than $2 billion, 290 sales and nearly $2 million in volume ahead of 2015, according to the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service.
Meanwhile, median single-family home prices rose more than $19,000 over 2015, or an increase of 5 percent. The median price for a Utah County single-family home as of December was a bit more than $284,000.
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