Demographers at the University of Virginia are forecasting a sharp increase in Albemarle’s population by the year 2045, but a smaller rise for the city of Charlottesville.
“Charlottesville has had a fair amount of growth and I think it can continue having it, but I think it’s going to be much more challenging given its geography,” said Hamilton Lombard with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
The projections are calculated using a series of formulas that factor in recent population trends and then extrapolates them into the future.
“A lot of agencies and local governments look at these for planning,” Lombard said. “When you’re thinking about where you want to put your money, you’re definitely going to be considering the numbers.”
Lombard said whether projections meet reality will depend on land use decisions made by Virginia localities.
The center’s data projects Albemarle County growing to a population of 118,828 in 2025, 134,104 in 2035 and 148,337 in 2045. The center’s population estimate for 2016 is 105,715, an increase of 6,745 people since the 2010 Census.
“The county is working diligently on implementing the Comprehensive Plan vision, which anticipated this kind of growth,” said Andrew Gast-Bray, the county’s community development director. In 1980, the Board of Supervisors designated five percent of the county’s land for development and restricted growth in the remaining 95 percent.
Gast-Bray said keeping that system in place will mean more intense development in the urban ring.
“It will involve offering more choice in housing types, more transit-oriented development and more frequent transit service and mixing uses sensibly,” Gast-Bray said.
Charlottesville’s population is expected to climb to 53,701 in 2025 and 55,032 in 2035. However, the center projects flat growth in 2055 with a 2045 projection of 55,969. Weldon Cooper’s estimate for 2016 estimate is 49,071, up by nearly 5,600 people from the 2010 Census.
Alexander Ikefuna, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said the projections are consistent with recent patterns and are being used to drive Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan update.
“The 2018 Comprehensive Plan update is largely driven by the growth pressure and emphasis on nodes that are desirable for high intensity uses,” Ikefuna said. “We can channel the growth to those nodes and in doing so, stimulate more mixed uses as well as protect the quality of the neighborhoods for residential use.”
Fluvanna County’s population is projected to grow to 28,478 in 2025, 32,092 in 2035 and 35,457 in 2045. Weldon Cooper’s 2016 estimate for Fluvanna is 26,133 people.
Greene County is expected to rise from a 2016 estimate of 19,785 to a 2025 population of 22,645. The center projects 25,344 in 2025 and 27,847 in 2045.
Louisa County’s population is projected to increase from a 2016 estimate of 34,316 to 37,926 in 2025. That increases to 43,049 in 2035 and 47,836 in 2045.
Not all localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District are projected to grow. Nelson County is projected to remain relatively flat with a 2016 estimate of 14,835 only rising to 15,266 in 2045.
“When you look at the age distribution in Nelson County for the 2030’s, it will have close to a third of its population over the age of 65,” Lombard said. “That will make it hard for it to grow.”
Over in the Shenandoah Valley, the city of Harrisonburg is projected to grow from a 2016 estimate of 54,224 to 78,204 in 2045. However, the populations of both Staunton and Waynesboro are not projected to grow as dramatically. Weldon Cooper’s 2016 estimate for Staunton is 24,453 and that’s only projected to rise to 25,403 in 2045. The corresponding numbers for Waynesboro are 21,837 for a 2016 estimate and 25,332 for a 2045 projection.
The overall state population is expected to be over 10 million people. The fastest growing counties are expected to be Loudon County with a 122.5 percent projected increase, 69.7 percent in Prince William County and 68 percent in New Kent County.
Rural areas are projected to lose people with a 32.9 percent decrease expected in Buchanan County and 24.7 percent fewer people in Alleghany County. The city of Martinsville is projected to lose a quarter of its population.