Region is a growing powerhouse even before census - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Region is a growing powerhouse even before census

August 20th, 2019 development
Region is a growing powerhouse even before census

By Gary Nelson


Even before the U.S. Census Bureau takes its official count of East Valley residents on April 1, new statistics speak to the region’s growing clout.

Recent population estimates suggest, for example, that Mesa is on track to become Arizona’s second-largest city.

That title has been held for decades by Tucson. But Tucson posted only a 3.7 percent increase in population between the 2010 census and July 1, 2018, when the latest population estimates came out. That estimate put Tucson’s population at 545,975.

Mesa began the decade with almost 100,000 fewer residents than Tucson. The city counted just over 439,000 people in 2010 after several years of economic agony – indeed, there were signs that the Great Recession actually reduced the city’s population in the latter half of the century’s first decade.

Since then, powered by high-density housing on the west end and large-scale development to the east, Mesa’s population has zoomed past the half-million mark with a nearly 16 percent growth rate in eight years. 

Mesa’s population was estimated at 508,958 last July, making it the 35th largest city in the country.

If those rates of growth hold steady, Mesa will sail past Tucson in the population rankings by the mid-2020s.

In terms of percentage growth, Queen Creek has been this decade’s regional champion.

From an official census count of 26,361 in 2010, Queen Creek grew to an estimated 42,503 in July of last year – a growth rate of 61.2 percent.

Even that, however, pales in comparison with the more than 500 percent growth Queen Creek saw between 2000 and 2010. At the turn of the century, the town had only 3,713 residents.

Estimates of the town’s buildout population keep growing, and now stand at about 110,000.

The growth rates of other East Valley cities also are tapering off – but even at that, the number of new residents since 2010 would make sizable towns in their own right.

According to the 2018 census estimates:

Chandler’s population of 257,165 represented a net gain of 21,042, a growth rate of 8.9 percent in eight years.

Gilbert added 39,825 residents for a population of 248,279, a 19 percent growth rate.

Tempe’s growth rate was almost identical with Gilbert’s. The city, albeit landlocked, has been adding high-density housing in and near its downtown. It grew by 30,645 people between 2010 and 2018, when the population was estimated at 192,364.

Apache Junction grew 16.8 percent from 35,723 to 41,739 over the same period.

If the populations of Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe were combined, the population of 1.2 million would stand as the 10th-largest city in the country, beating out San Jose, California.