Just How Dense Are We? Population and Housing Density in Evanston

Evanston has a total area of 7.73 square miles of land. Within that area, according to the 2000 census, we had a population of 74,239, or 9,584.1 people per square mile, and 30,817 housing units, for a housing density of 3,978.4 units per square mile. How does that relate to other cities and towns? What it means is that Evanston, even 8 years ago, already had one of the highest densities, not just in the metropolitan area, but in the entire Midwest.

There are 1,312 cities, towns, and villages in Illinois. Evanston's population density is greater than that of 1,303 of those. In other words, Evanston is No. 9 in the entire state in terms of density. Here's the top 10:

Municipality Pop./sq.mi.
Stone Park 15,378.2
Cicero 14,645.2
Berwyn 13,876.2
Elmwood Park 13,328.4
Chicago 12,750.3
Oak Park 11,173.4
Harwood Heights 10,094.4
Maywood 9,965.7
Evanston 9,584.1
Hometown 9,354.6

All of the top 9 suburbs are "first suburbs" within a few miles of Chicago and all are divided into a grid system of interconnected streets, with significant amounts of apartment housing. In terms of housing density, we rank even higher, since tiny Stone Park Village and Maywood both drop down (although Hometown moves up). Here are the only towns with housing density greater than Evanston's 3,978.4 housing units per sq. mi.: Elmwood Park, 5,325.1; Berwyn, 5,315.3; Chicago, 5,075.8; Oak Park, 5,046.6; Harwood Heights, 4,387.2; Cicero, 4,214.9; Hometown, 4,058.5.


How does Evanston compare to some neighboring towns? We are more than 50% denser than Skokie, more than 75% denser than Park Ridge and Niles, nearly twice as dense as Wilmette in terms of population, and more than twice as dense in terms of housing units. We have more than double the density, by any measure, of Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Des Plaines, or Arlington Heights.

Considered regionally, Evanston is about 5 times as dense as the Chicago metropolitan area overall, and is more dense than larger Illinois cities such as Springfield, Joliet, Peoria, Waukegan, Elgin, Aurora, and Rockford – in fact it's nearly five times as dense as the state capitol. Evanston also has a greater population density than any municipality in all of the state of Wisconsin. Not just Racine, Oshkosh, and Madison; Evanston is about 50% denser than Milwaukee.

In fact, Evanston is denser than any city not only in Wisconsin, but also in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, or Missouri, its population density exceeding by far that of St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor, Gary, Hammond, Indianapolis, or Detroit. For that matter we're more dense than Denver, Los Angeles proper, or the District of Columbia. Nationally, Evanston is in the top 50 (#47) of all cities above 50,000 in population. Internationally, Evanston is more dense than the Mexico City metropolitan area, but less dense than the Shanghai metro area.


Note also that these are figures from the 2000 census. Evanston has added population and housing units since then. We may, by now, be even higher on the list.


I went and hunted down this information because I have repeatedly asked consultants and proponents of more mass, height, and population density to say what the goal is, where they believe we should we end up, what density is optimal. I have brought up this question before the Plan Commission and the City Council. I haven't yet heard an answer.


You can see how some might argue that in terms of regional density, Evanston is perhaps already doing its part. I ask fans of making Evanston even more dense: which of the other Illinois towns denser than Evanston should we aspire to resemble? Is our role model Cicero, or Harwood Heights? Oak Park? Chicago?

-- Jeff Smith


Well, since we are so dense already (pun intended), it should be incumbent upon those who are proponents of even greater density to explain why we are in a financial crisis if more density is good for us financially.

As a resident, I don't want the City Council to determine how dense Evanston should be. I think that residents should make this decision in conjunction with the Council and other city boards and commissions. Frankly, at this crucial period what we need is more rather than less citizen input.

Peter Sanchez

It strikes me that more density has been offered up as a soulution to Evanston's fiscal problems, however, as Jeff and Peter have both pointed out there is clearly a lack of definintion and direction as to how much density is necessary and how that solves the problem.

Residents have asked questions which have not been answered, and need to be answered before assuming that more density is the right answer.

We hear alot of promises about more tax dollars but no clear anylsis of what the costs are to get that tax dollar.

Mary Rosinski

It now appears that we no longer need to tune in to Fox and MSNBC to see O'Reilly and Olberman mud slinging!

Seriously, Thank goodness you have removed the feed to DevelopEvanstonNow, and thank you Jeff for raising thoughtful questions that deserve debate, and apparently, a little thick skin.

Moreover, thanks go to the Central Street Neighbors for providing a forum that is not so obviously biased. I fully appreciate your fair-minded rules which do not allow for "Mr. Who Knows Nothing" to express himself, and I also appreciate your policy regarding polls and votes. A breath of fresh air!

best regards,

Mimi Peterson