Charlottesville could lose its metropolitan status

Downtown Charlottesville
Updated: Mar. 11, 2021 at 9:00 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Depending on how many people were counted in the most recent census, the city of Charlottesville could lose its metropolitan status.

“I think losing the title of being a metro area would mean something, whether it means something materially it’s hard to say,” Hamilton Lombard, a demographer at the University of Virginia, said.

Under a new federal proposal, a metro area must now have at least 100,000 people in its core city to be considered a metropolitan statistical area or MSA.

“What they think is appropriate now is to up that to 100,00, so double 50,000 from 2010,” Lombard said.

Lombard says he’s not sure if Charlottesville will still be considered a metropolitan area after the 2020 census is released.

“Charlottesville’s right on the borderline. If this was 2010, yes I think Charlottesville wouldn’t be a metro area anymore, but if you look at the growth rate, the Charlottesville area has grown faster than Virginia overall,” Lombard said.

But, there’s a catch. Lombard says the 2020 census was conducted at the beginning of the pandemic when UVA students went home for the semester.

“The 2020 census was conducted in April when nearly all UVA students had left and there’s a big question of whether they were counted or not. If they weren’t counted, there may not be enough people in the Charlottesville metro area and it will lose that status, so I think that’s actually a big question,” Lombard said.

Staunton and Harrisonburg are also on the cusp of becoming a micropolitan area too.

“I think the biggest impact it has though on marketing is it’s a bit like whether you’re a city or a town. Practically speaking it may not mean anything, but a lot of places like to be a city,” Lombard said.

NBC29 reached out to the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County for comment on this possible metro change and they both declined. Lombard says he expects the 2020 census will be released by the end of September.

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