The city of Vineyard in Utah County — on the site of the former Geneva steel mill — was the fastest growing place in America during the past decade, with an astounding growth rate of 10,687% — meaning it grew to 107 times its original size.
It skyrocketed from a tiny town of 110 people in 2010 to 11,866 in 2019, according to estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“That’s pretty astonishing,” said Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. “Vineyard is a special case.”
Why is it unique and growing so fast? “It’s the old adage of location, location, location,” says City Manager Jacob McHargue.
He notes that it stretches along the shore of Utah Lake for scenery. It has four freeway exits for easy access, and it will soon add a FrontRunner commuter train station. But more than anything, “This much undeveloped property in the heart of Utah County is hard to come by,” but it opened up after closure and cleanup of the steel mill.
Perlich adds, “You don’t get these big islands of undeveloped land right smack dab in the middle of a major urban area very often.” She said officials are watching it for lessons learned as another big plot of land — at the soon to be redeveloped Utah State Prison site in Draper — will soon also become available.
And because Vineyard offers everything from apartments to big single family homes, it has become a magnet for all sort of families seeking to be near Provo and Orem or Silicon Slopes in Lehi, also fueling faster growth.
Slower, but still fast, growth
While Vineyard was the fastest growing in city in Utah for the fifth straight year in 2019, the rate for the year seemed slow by its standards: just 18.5% for the year (compared with 65% in 2018), adding 1,852 people (compared with 3,877 the previous year).
McHargue said that’s because the southern half of the city largely has been built out, and several developers there have used all their land. “We have one developer there building houses as fast as he can, instead of six builders building houses as fast as they can.”
Growth is expected to be at the current fast-but-slower pace also this year and maybe the next, he said. “It gives us time to catch our breath a bit.” But in 2022, he expects explosive growth again.
He said a builder in the northern half of the city will soon develop 350 acres of mixed development. “All the buildings have to be at least four stories,” he said. “It will be very urban, very dense.” With that, McHargue said, “We are doing some very exciting things and I anticipate to continue to see this growth continue over the next 10 years.”
Other fast-growing Utah cities
New Census Bureau estimates for cities show Vineyard is not the only one in Utah at or near the top of national rankings. Others include:
• Herriman was the nation’s fastest growing large city (with a population of at least 50,000) from 2010 to 2019. (Vineyard was the fastest growing in the decade for places of at least 1,000 people in 2018.) Herriman grew 135.9% in the decade, going from 21,768 residents to 51,348.
• South Jordan ranked No. 12 for growth among the nation’s largest cities in the decade, up 51.85%. Its population grew from 50,473 to 76,598.
• Lehi was No. 15 among large cities in the nation for growth in the decade (46%), and No. 13 for growth in just the past year (5.7%). Its population grew from 47,769 to 69,724.
New estimates show again that growth in Utah is centered in southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County. Six of the 10 fastest growing cities last year were in that general area: Vineyard (18.5%), Herriman (15%), Bluffdale (11.8%), Eagle Mountain (8%), Saratoga Springs (6.2%) and Lehi (5.7%).
“That’s clearly where the growth and development of the residential population is going,” Perlich said — adding it may slow for a few years now because of the economic downturn and unemployment from the coronavirus.
She said that area is growing because it has available land, compared to other areas in Salt Lake County that have largely been filled in. Land there is also more affordable, so people can buy more for their money. It is also between the urban centers of Salt Lake City and Provo/Orem and Silicon Slopes.
“A lot of of families actually have one person in the household go north and one go south to work,” said Bluffdale City Manager Mark Reid. His city has grown 115% from 7,609 in 2010 to 16,358 now. “People here can be on the freeway within five minutes,” saying that is a draw along with cheaper prices.
“Affordability is always a major factor when someone is looking to buy a home,” said Eagle Mountain Mayor Tom Westmoreland. He said people look for well-planned communities, too. “People think of Eagle Mountain as a small town. But in reality, it’s not. We take that as a compliment because we have strived to maintain that small town feel as we grow.”
Not all places in Utah have been growing in the past decade.
Rural areas continue to lose population as people move to seek jobs. Five rural cities each lost just over 10% of their population in the past decade: Circleville, Kingston, Ferron, Orangeville and Junction. Another 31 cities also lost population during the decade.
For the record, the 10 largest cities in Utah by population in 2019 were: Salt Lake City (200,567), West Valley City (135,248), Provo (116,618), West Jordan (116,480), Orem (97,828), Sandy (96,380), St. George (89,587), Ogden (87,773), Layton (78,014) and South Jordan (76,598). This year, St. George passed Ogden for the No. 7 spot on the list.
Utah housing growth is No. 1
The Census Bureau also released estimates Thursday about growth in housing units. Utah had the fastest housing unit growth in the nation last year, up 2.2%. It ranked No. 2 for housing unit growth from 2010 to 2019, up 15.7% — and behind only boom-then-bust North Dakota.
Utah added 24,866 housing units last year for a total of 1.13 million.
James Wood, a senior fellow at the Gardner Policy institute, said even with such growth in housing, “demand has for some time outpaced supply” because of fast population growth. That has led to a shortage of housing, which has driven up prices.
While the lion’s share of new construction before the Great Recession was for single family houses, he said that has changed in the last four or five years to multifamily housing such as apartments, condos and town homes.
He said Utah still has more demand than supply for rentals, existing homes and new construction. Wood said coronavirus has contributed to a big drop in recent sales, however he said prices remain higher — perhaps in part “because those who don’t get the price they want are just pulling their listings” and waiting to sell under better conditions.
Wood adds that Utah likely ranks so high in growth of housing because in recent years its economy was better than most, which attracted more people seeking jobs. Also, he said Utah’s age structure includes many young people seeking to form families, creating an expanding market for housing.