From the Wasatch Front to Washington County, Utah's suburban communities continue to flourish, according to population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

South Jordan — which added more than 4,000 people from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2007 — no longer fits the traditional definition of suburb, says George Shaw, the city's community development director.

"Folks ought to come out and see what we're doing," Shaw said. "I would characterize our city as a village. ... We are trying to develop communities with walkability."

The estimates are for July 1, 2007, before much of Utah started to see its economic slowdown. The numbers do reflect a slowdown in St. George's growth, says state demographer Juliette Tennert.

That city's housing market is more closely tied to Las Vegas, which took an earlier hit than the Wasatch Front, she said.

Even so, she said, St. George continues to show "very strong growth" of 4.4 percent.

Meanwhile, West Jordan has topped 102,000, according to the population estimates, replacing Sandy as the state's fourth-largest city, after Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Provo. And while St. George's growth has slowed, it continued to outpace the state's growth, topping 71,000 people.

Northern Utah County continued to see strong growth as well. Lehi nearly doubled its population from 2000 to 2007, when the estimated population was 36,885.

Smaller suburban cities also saw strong growth. The Weber County community of West Haven grew by nearly 18 percent in one year to an estimated 7,187 people. The city's population was at just under 4,000 in 2000. And nearby Hooper grew by 13.3 percent to just over 5,200 people. Meanwhile, the northern Juab County community of Mona grew by 13.4 percent to 1,318.

However, as baby boomers age and gas prices rise, suburban communities will have to redevelop themselves to accommodate the changing demographics, says Pamela Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah.

"With the aging of the baby boomers, more and more households are going to be headed by people who are 65 and older," Perlich said. "They're not going to want to go to the suburbs and live in a split-level five-bedroom house. It's just a matter of time until those areas are going to feel the heat."

Utah's suburban cities are already starting to adapt, for example by developing their own town centers, says Brenda Scheer, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning at the U.

"We're basically looking at a lifestyle that is more urban, more entertainment, more restaurants," Scheer said. "Lots of things within walking distance. Close to (public) transit, with health care near by."

And, she said, the traditional large suburban lots will become obsolete as seniors, and young adults, opt for smaller living spaces in higher-density developments such as apartments or condominiums.

"It will take some adjustment to get people used to the idea that this is housing for their aging parents," she said.

In South Jordan, Shaw points to the Daybreak development as a model of the type of community he hopes will continue to attract new residents. The plan is for a walkable community with a variety of housing styles, open space and easy access to transit.

A rail line ending at Daybreak is among 70 miles of new rail under development over the next seven years, said Carrie Bohnsack-Ware, spokeswoman for the Utah Transit Authority.

The lines, along with a new bus rapid transit route that will extend west from the 3300 South TRAX station to Magna, will provide commuters with more transit options, she said.

Even as the suburbs become more urban, traditional urban cores are re-emerging, in Utah and nationally.

Perlich said Salt Lake City, which had declined for decades, showed growth in 2000, and housing data shows that growth has continued. The economics of transportation and housing costs could accelerate the trend, she says.

"People are not going to continue to move to the suburbs at as high a rate," Perlich said. "The central cities are re-emerging."


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