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Baltimore skyline
The Baltimore skyline across the Inner Harbor. (The Daily Record)

Baltimore 100% urban?

How urban is Baltimore?

A recent post by FiveThirtyEight, a statistics-driven journalism website, took a look at how urban American cities truly are. The site examined how the density of populations in the country’s largest areas and examined to what extent residents in those ZIP codes viewed their neighborhoods as urban, suburban and rural.

To very little surprise, if you follow the dynamics of how cities develop, newer urban areas in the South and West of the country are often just blobs of suburban sprawl called cities, whereas older cities on the East Coast have more of the traditional urban density associated with cities.

What, exactly, is a city? Technically, cities are legal designations that, under state laws, have specific public powers and functions. But many of the largest American cities — especially in the South and West — don’t feel like cities, at least not in the high-rise-and-subways, “Sesame Street” sense. Large swaths of many big cities are residential neighborhoods of single-family homes, as car-dependent as any suburb. — FiveThirtyEight

Online news outlet Slate also took a look at the data, which was provided by real estate website Truila, and posted a graphic that I found pretty surprising. According to the data, exactly 0 percent of Baltimore’s households in the city qualify for living in a suburban ZIP code. Now, if you drive around large portions of Baltimore you’ll find large green yards in neighborhoods that are dependent on cars for transportation. So how could 100 percent of the city’s ZIP codes be considered urban?

Initially, I was surprised by the fact that both New York and Washington, D.C., qualified as 100 percent “urban” by Kolko’s measure. Large sections of Queens, where it’s not unheard of to find backyard pools and front lawns, seem awfully ‘burblike, as do some wealthier, mansion-studded chunks of Northwest D.C. What that speaks to is the fact that the areas many Americans consider “urban” aren’t really hyper-dense. As Kolko noted at FiveThirtyEight, ZIP codes at the threshold between urban and suburban include places like Falls Church, a strip mall-filled stretch of Northern Virginia, and Teanec, New Jersey. — Slate

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.