Community Wealth Cities

Richmond, Virginia

Posted March 2014

The 32nd in our continuing series of Community Wealth Cities is Richmond, Virginia. Richmond has a complex history; once the capital of the Confederacy, it was also the first city to host a bank chartered by African- Americans. Its unique legacy as a site of both racial tension and progress creates interesting challenges and opportunities for community wealth building. Last fall, Richmond gained national attention for Mayor Dwight Jones’ anti-poverty plan, which calls for broad expansion of community wealth building and social enterprise activity.

Read more about Richmond, Virginia...

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The largest city in New Mexico and one of the country’s most culturally diverse, Albuquerque is a rapidly growing metropolis in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. Known as a hub for scientific and technological innovation — particularly in the energy sector — Albuquerque is also a center of Southwestern culture, with deep ties to its Native American heritage. Community wealth building organizations are working to protect this heritage and ensure that all residents equitably benefit in the face of rapid economic growth.

Atlanta, Georgia

Updated March 2017

Founded in 1837 at the intersection of two railroad lines, Atlanta quickly grew into a center of commerce and culture in the South.  While part of a larger metropolitan area of more than five million inhabitants, the city of Atlanta itself is relatively small with just under 464,000 residents. Read more about Atlanta, Georgia...

Austin, Texas

Updated December 2015

Known as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is reported to have more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city. Besides being a cultural center, it’s also the state capital, a center for education, and the economic hub for a metropolitan area of over 1.7 million people. With a population of nearly 912,800 according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 estimates, Austin is the fourth largest city in Texas.  It has experienced a population boom over the past several years—with a growth rate of nearly 16 percent between 2010 and 2014—and was ranked by Forbes as the second fastest growing city in 2015.  The city’s racial composition is roughly 49 percent white, 35 percent Hispanic or Latino, 8 percent African-American, 6 percent Asian, and 3 percent of two or more races.

Baltimore, Maryland

Updated September 2016

Founded in 1729, Baltimore quickly grew thanks to its active port and role as a granary for sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean.  Its growth was further fueled by the development of new rail lines in the 19th century which connected Baltimore to markets in the Midwest and established the City as a major shipping and manufacturing center.

Birmingham, Alabama

Posted April 2018

Founded in 1871 through the merger of three small towns, Birmingham quickly grew as an industrial center thanks to the exploitation of cheap, non-unionized immigrant and African-American workers and its proximity to iron ore, coal, and limestone deposits (the three raw materials needed to make steel).  Named after Birmingham, England, which was then considered one of the world's most renowned industrial centers, its rapid growth earned it the nickname, Magic City. Read more about Birmingham, Alabama...

Boston, Massachusetts

Updated August 2017

As the largest city in New England, and one of its oldest, Boston has long been the region's economic and cultural hub. According to 2016 Census Bureau estimates, the city’s population is over 673,000.  While still lower than its peak of 800,000 in 1950, Boston has been steadily growing since 1980 and the Greater Boston region is home to over 4.7 million people – making it the tenth-largest metropolitan area in the country.

Buffalo, New York

In 1950, Buffalo, New York stood as the nation's eighth largest city, with a population of 580,000. In 2011, the U.S. Census estimated a population of 261,000 - 50% white, 38% black, 10.5% Latino, and 3% Asian. Similar to other Rust Belt cities, like Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh, Buffalo has experienced decline as manufacturing companies, steel industries, and blue-collar jobs have disappeared. However, to fill this gap, the City and its residents have initiated new approaches and ideas to tough problems, revitalizing their city from both the top-down and the bottom-up. Read more about Buffalo, New York...

Burlington, Vermont

Posted February 2016

Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont is the largest city in the state and a major economic and educational center. Located just 45 miles south of the Canadian border, Burlington is home to just over 42,000 residents. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city is 87 percent white, 4 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian-American, 3 percent Hispanic-American, and 3 percent other.

Settled in the late 1700s, Burlington’s early history revolved around its waterfront and trade links. By the 1800s, bolstered by completion of the Erie Canal, the Champlain Canal, and the Chambly Canal, it was one of the foremost lumber ports in the United States as well as a major freight rail center. To support these activities, the city’s waterfront was repeatedly expanded, before falling into a state of polluted neglect by the 1980s as a result of economic shifts that reduced the city’s role as a transportation hub. Starting in the late 1980s, under then Mayor Bernie Sanders, the city undertook a major effort to take much of the waterfront into public ownership, clean it up, and redevelop it for a variety of public purposes.

Burlington, Vermont

Although it is the economic and educational engine of the state, Burlington has a relatively high poverty rate and is facing the challenge of steadily rising housing costs. However, the city is also home to many community wealth building groups and institutions—many of which emerged due to the efforts of former Burlington Mayor and current United States Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Read more about Burlington, Vermont...

Chicago, Illinois

Updated April 2017

The third largest city in the United States, Chicago had a population of nearly 2.7 million residents at the time of the 2010 census, and covers 237 square miles of land.  The city's population is 33% African American, 28% Hispanic, 5% Asian, and the remainder mostly non-Hispanic white.   It is also one of the most segregated cities in the country, with a black-white dissimilarity score of 75.9 percent according to a study of 2010 Census data, with African-Americans living primarily in the south and west side neighborhoods of the city. 

Cincinnati, Ohio

Incorporated as a city in 1819, Cincinnati grew steadily through the mid-1900s due to its prime location on the Ohio River.  In fact, the Queen City—so dubbed by Longfellow, who referred to it as “the Queen of the West”—weathered the Great Depression better than most cities of comparable size because of the resurgence in river trade, which was less expensive than rail.  By 1950, Cincinnati had grown to its peak of nearly 504,000 residents, making it the 18th largest city in the country. Read more about Cincinnati, Ohio...

Cleveland, Ohio

Now the 45th largest city in the United States, the City of Cleveland’s prime location on the Great Lakes made it one of our country’s key transportation hubs and commercial and manufacturing centers by the late 19th century.  In fact, due primarily to its strong economy, Cleveland became the fifth largest city in the United States in 1920, and reached a population high of 914,808 in 1949. Read more about Cleveland, Ohio...

Columbus, Ohio

The largest city in Ohio, Columbus is also the capital of the state. According to the 2010 Census, Columbus is comprised of 787,000 people with a median age of 31.2 years old, seven years younger than the nation’s median. The city’s demographics are of 61.5 percent white, 28 percent African American, 4.1 percent Asian American, and 5.6 percent having a Latino/Hispanic background. Read more about Columbus, Ohio...

Dallas, Texas

Posted January 2017

Dallas was incorporated as a city in 1856, and quickly became a business and trading center following the development of major rail lines through the area.  The city’s importance as a transportation hub was reinforced by the construction of the Interstate Highway System in the mid-20th century, with four major highways meeting in the city and another circling it.  While Dallas’ economy was initially based on cotton and oil, its accessibility has helped it become an industrial and financial center with a diverse range of industries and the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S.  While other Texan cities have suffered in recent years due to falling oil prices, Dallas has continued its remarkable record of experiencing growth every decade since the 1870s.

Dayton, Ohio

Incorporated in 1805, Dayton, Ohio was once a hub for industrial growth reaching a population peak of more than 262,000 in 1960. Similar to other industrial cities, however, Dayton’s population began to decline as a result of suburbanization and industrial flight to places with low labor costs. According to U.S. Census estimates, Dayton had 141,003 residents as of 2014. Roughly half (51 percent) of the city residents were white, 43 percent African American, 3 percent Hispanic American, and 3 percent multiracial. Although Dayton does experience economic challenges, including a poverty rate twice the state average, many civic and community leaders are working hard to reverse this and promote economic and social inclusion.

Denver, Colorado

Updated February 2017

Nicknamed the Mile City because its official elevation measures exactly one mile above sea level, Denver is the largest city in Colorado and its capital.  Incorporated as a city in 1861 with less than 5,000 residents, Denver experienced significant growth when it was connected to the transcontinental railroad in 1870.  Powered by the development of new industries, that growth largely continued until the 1980s, when the city’s population reached more than half a million residents, before briefly falling.

Detroit, Michigan

Updated December 2017

Incorporated as a city in 1815, Detroit quickly experienced significant growth thanks to its location along the Great Lakes waterway, which made it an ideal port and transportation hub.  Between 1920 and 1930—thanks to the city becoming home to the thriving automobile industry—Detroit’s population more than doubled, increasing from 465,766 to 993,678 residents.  At its peak in 1950, the city had nearly 1.85 million inhabitants.

Durham, North Carolina

Updated December 2018

Durham was once best known for its textile mills and tobacco factories, including the “Bull Durham Tobacco and Company” and “Duke & Sons.” However, in the late 1980s Durham hit hard times, marked by the closure of Erwin Mills (Burlington Industries) in 1986 and, just one year later, the American Tobacco factory.

Greensboro, North Carolina

The 31st in our continuing series of Community Wealth Cities is Greensboro, North Carolina. Situated in central North Carolina and a leading site of the civil rights movement (birthplace of the lunch counter sit-ins that led to the integration of restaurants and hotels), Greensboro today is the state’s third largest city. Organizations across the city are actively creating and implementing innovative community wealth building programs and strategies to help foster a healthier, vibrant local economy.

Houston, Texas

Spurred on by industry from its bustling port and railroad connections, a 20th century oil boom, and later from diversification into aerospace (the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) and healthcare and biotechnology (the MD Anderson Cancer Center), the City of Houston has grown rapidly in population and economic output. Today, Houston is the fourth largest city in nation with a population of 2.1 million people and one of the youngest cities in the country. Read more about Houston, Texas...

Indianapolis, Indiana

Posted May 2015

The largest city in Indiana, and the 12th largest in the nation, Indianapolis has a population of nearly 843,400, according to 2013 U.S. Census estimates.  Demographically, the population is roughly 62 percent white, 27 percent African American, 9 percent Latino, and 2 percent Asian. Read more about Indianapolis, Indiana...

Jacksonville, Florida

The eleventh most populous city in the nation and the largest in Florida, Jacksonville is home to community wealth building initiatives at every level – from the city- and region-wide to the most grassroots of efforts. Both the city-owned port and city-owned electric utility serve as important economic engines. Community-led efforts are striving to revitalize the city’s especially hard-hit northwest neighborhoods.

Kansas City, Missouri

Bordering and sharing a name with its suburban neighbor in adjacent Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the state with a population of more than 460,000 in 2011. Known for its substantial musical contributions to jazz and blues starting in the 1930s, Kansas City is also informally referred to as the "Heart of America" by Kansas City residents since it is situated very near the geographic center of the nation. Read more about Kansas City, Missouri...

Los Angeles, California

Spanning across 500 square miles of Southern California, Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the United States with a 2010 census population of just under 3.8 million people. According to the 2010 census, the city’s population is 50% white, 10% black, and 15% Asian. Just under 50% of Los Angeles' population is Hispanic or Latino. Spurred in part by rampant urban sprawl and gentrification in some neighborhoods, Los Angeles has spawned a wide range of community wealth building initiatives that are seeking to counter these trends. Read more about Los Angeles, California...

Madison, Wisconsin

Posted June 2016

The second largest city in the state, and the state capital, Madison is home to a number of historical community wealth builders. One of the oldest worker-owned cooperatives, Union Cab, was established in the city in 1979 and now boasts gross annual revenues over $7 million and 230 members. In 2014, the city allocated $1 million a year for five years to support the growth of worker-owned businesses. This is the largest allocation toward cooperative development by a U.S. municipality to date.

Read more about Madison, Wisconsin...

Memphis, Tennessee

Capitol of the “Mid-South,” Memphis had over 652,000 residents in 2011, almost half of the region’s population. The Mid-South is the metropolitan hub of a five-state area which includes Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. With a worldwide reputation for culture and art (especially the blues), Memphis was also an important city during the Civil Rights movement, and the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Read more about Memphis, Tennessee...

Miami, Florida

Updated June 2017

The City of Miami is the center of a large urban area with a total population of about 5.5 million. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city proper had nearly 453,580 residents as of July 2016. Often referred to as “The Magic City” because it is the core of a region that grew from just 110 people in 1896, the city itself has experienced significant growth over the past several decades. Since 2000 it has gained more than 91,000 residents, a growth rate of about 25 percent.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee was incorporated in 1846. German immigrants, who came to Wisconsin in search of inexpensive farmland, fueled the city’s early growth. Over the following decades, Milwaukee attracted large groups of other immigrants, including Poles, Lithuanians, Italian, Irish, French, Russian, Bohemian, and Swedish. By 1910, Milwaukee ranked first in the nation, alongside New York City, for having the largest percentage of foreign-born residents. Read more about Milwaukee, Wisconsin...

Nashvillle, Tennessee

Added November, 2017

Founded in 1779 and named after Francis Nash, a Revolutionary War hero, Nashville quickly became a prosperous city thanks to being a port on the Cumberland River and its designation as the state capital in 1843.  Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, its manufacturing base developed and thrived, fueling the city’s robust growth. Read more about Nashvillle, Tennessee...

New Haven, Connecticut

Incorporated as a city in 1784, New Haven grew through the 18th and 19th centuries thanks to its flourishing industrial sector and an influx of immigrants, mainly from southern Europe.  The city’s population reached its peak of nearly 164,500 residents in 1950, after which significant numbers of middle class residents began moving to the suburbs and manufacturing jobs began leaving the city.  This industrial decline, coupled with the growth of Yale University, the Ivy League school founded in New Haven in 1701, has resulted in an economic base that is now dominated by the education and health care sectors.  Home to the first public tree planting program in the country, New Haven is also now known for its large canopy of elm trees, giving it the nickname, The Elm City.

New Orleans, Louisiana

A decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, more than halving the city's population from 455,000 to 210,000 residents, the Big Easy is coming back. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Orleans' population has climbed past 378,000. Demographically, the population is roughly 60 percent African American, 33 percent white, 5 percent Latino, and 3 percent Asian. Read more about New Orleans, Louisiana...

New York, New York

As the nation's most populous city since 1790, New York City is home to about 8.4 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 estimate. Throughout its history, the city has been a leading entry point for immigrants, helping create an incredibly diverse city. Demographically, the city is 33 percent white (of which one third is Jewish), 29 percent Latino, 25 percent African American, and 13 percent Asian. The city is home to the largest Latino and African American communities in the country and the largest Jewish population of any city in the world. Read more about New York, New York...

Newark, New Jersey

Posted December 2015

Located less than 10 miles from New York City, Newark, New Jersey is a major commercial center in the northeast. With nearly 278,500 residents, Newark is the state’s largest city and functions as a major transportation hub, home to one of the nation’s busiest airports, Newark Liberty International Airport, as well as Port Newark, the largest container shipping terminal on the East Coast. Read more about Newark, New Jersey...

Oakland, California

Incorporated in 1852, Oakland experienced a wave of growth in the late 1860s after it was selected as the western terminal of the Transcontinental Railroad. Its growth continued over the next several decades as it became a thriving transport hub, with a port, shipyards, and booming automobile manufacturing industry.  The city’s population doubled to over 150,000 after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when many San Franciscans who lost their homes moved to Oakland.  Read more about Oakland, California...

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Updated June 2018

Founded in 1682 to serve as the capital of the colony of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia quickly gained prominence as its central location made it a natural meeting point for America’s revolutionaries.  The city’s growth continued through the 19th century as its position as a railroad hub and immigrant port helped it become a major industrial center.  Between 1890 and 1950, Philadelphia’s population doubled from 1 million to 2 million residents.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Updated April 2016

Many people, when they think of Pittsburgh, tend to think of its past as the historic center of the U.S. steel industry. Not surprisingly, the demise of that industry has taken its toll on the city. At its peak in 1943, U.S. Steel alone employed 50,000 workers in the metro Pittsburgh area. Today, it employs less than 5,000. As a result, the "Steel City" has seen a steady population decline. In 1950, the population of Pittsburgh was 677,000. By 2000, it had fallen to less than half that level, or 335,000, similar to the city's population level of a century before.  The Census Bureau’s estimate for 2014 is even lower— 305,412. Of the current population, about two-thirds are white, 26 percent African American, with the remainder Asian, Latino, or other.

Portland, Oregon

The city of Portland, Oregon has enjoyed an economic boom that was largely supported by growth in high technology industries. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, its population as of 2010 exceeded 583,000. The city's population is predominately white, but does have significant minority populations. Portland's population includes 9.4% who are Hispanic or Latino, 7.1% who are Asian American, 6.2% who are African-American and 1% who are American Indian. Read more about Portland, Oregon...

Providence, Rhode Island

In recent years, Providence has seen aesthetic and economic changes, uncovering its natural rivers and starting to stabilize neighborhoods across the city. Aiding this revival are a number of community wealth building initiatives, including multiple anchor institutions, numerous community development corporations seeking to increase affordable housing options for low-income residents, and policies to foster local job creation, such as the Job Now Providence program.

Rochester, New York

Posted September 2015

Chartered in 1834, Rochester grew in the mid-19th century as the flour mill industry developed along the Genesee River. As America’s wheat processing industry moved west, the city’s moniker changed from “Flour City” to “Flower City” thanks to its growing nursery businesses. Rochester’s industrial base diversified after the Civil War, when immigrants launched enterprises including Eastman Kodak and Bausch & Lomb, helping the city to reach its peak population of nearly 332,500 by 1950.

San Diego, California

Posted January 2019

The eighth largest city in the United States, San Diego has the nation’s fourth largest population of residents facing homelessness. To counter this, San Diego is home to a number of institutions and initiatives that are attempting to build community wealth. This includes: the recently launched San Diego Community Land Trust, which will work to expand access to homeownership and permanently affordable housing; the University of San Diego, a member of our Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, which is working to strengthen community engagement and catalyze local community economic development; and Neighborhood National Bank, the first nationally chartered bank designated as a CDFI. Read more about San Diego, California...

San Francisco, California

With nearly 852,500 residents in just 47 square miles, San Francisco is the most densely populated large city in the state of California and second in the United States. It is also the fourth largest county in California and its population has experienced more than a three and a half percent increase since 2000. According to the 2010 Census, San Francisco is 49 percent white, 33 percent Asian, 15 percent Hispanic or Latino, and six percent African-American. Read more about San Francisco, California...

San Jose, California

Located just south of San Francisco Bay in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose has grown to become northern California's largest city. The city's population in 2010 was 945,000, exceeding San Francisco's population by about 140,000. Like most large California cities, San Jose has a diverse population: 43% are white, 32% are Asian, and 3% are African-American. 33% of San Jose's residents identify as Hispanic or latino. As would be expected for the central city of the Silicon Valley, San Jose enjoys considerable wealth, but it also has a large low-income population.  Read more about San Jose, California...

Seattle, Washington

With an estimated population of 570,000, Seattle is a major economic, cultural and educational center of the Pacific Northwest. According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, Seattle is 71-percent white, 13-percent Asian American, 8-percent African American, and 6-percent Latino. Having ranked as first or second for the last four years as the most literate city in the nation, it also holds the title as the most educated large city in the country - with more than 53 percent of the population having a college degree or higher. Read more about Seattle, Washington...

St. Louis, Missouri

Updated March 2018

Founded in 1764 by French fur traders who named the city after King Louis IX, St. Louis became part of the United States in 1803 following the Louisiana Purchase.  As a major port on the Mississippi River, the city experienced significant growth during the 19th and early 20th centuries, reaching its peak of nearly 857,000 residents in 1950.

Like other industrial cities, in the mid-20th century St. Louis experienced significant population loss as a result of suburbanization and deindustrialization.   As an independent city, St. Louis felt the effects of these trends more severely than other municipalities that could annex surrounding areas to boost tax revenues.

Tacoma, Washington

Posted February 2018

The forty-fourth in our C-W City series is Tacoma, Washington. 26 percent of all Tacoma children live in poverty versus 16 percent of children statewide. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, the city’s homeless population increased by 37 percent. To reverse these trends, the City, local anchors, and organizations are investing in building community wealth. Examples include the Education Project, operated by the Tacoma Housing Authority, which includes a children’s savings account program that provides matched savings to incentivize family deposits and financial literacy programs Read more about Tacoma, Washington...

The Twin Cities - Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

Updated November 2016

Minneapolis, with its wide boulevards, organized grid layout, and modern downtown, stands in striking contrast to the city of St. Paul across the river, with its late-Victorian architecture, narrower streets, and irregularly shaped neighborhoods. While the Twin Cities have a long history of rivalry and differ in appearance, together they are home to many community wealth building initiatives and organizations. Read more about The Twin Cities - Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota...

Washington, D.C.

When most people think of Washington, D.C., they think of a city of iconic monuments, the Smithsonian museums, and the three branches of the Federal government. But Washington is also a thriving community of more than half a million residents. The District’s population, which lost over 200,000 residents between 1950 and 2000, has rapidly rebounded in recent years. As recently as 2007, the District was home to only 574,000 residents. By 2014, population had climbed back to 659,000 due to an influx of young, largely white residents. Read more about Washington, D.C....