Pedestrians cross the intersection of Commerce Drive and Swanton Way in downtown Decatur, Thursday, January 23, 2020. The city renovated the sidewalks adding enough space for a bicycle lane in addition to foot traffic. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Census: Brookhaven most populous DeKalb city; Decatur growth surges

Brookhaven surpassed 55,000 residents for the first time last year and is now DeKalb County’s most populous city, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Chamblee was also among the DeKalb cities that grew last year, hitting 30,000 residents, a 13% increase from the city’s 2010 population, according to the estimates. Stonecrest was previously the most populous city in the county, but tallied about 600 fewer residents than Brookhaven last year, according to the Census.

No city in DeKalb grew faster over the past 10 years than Decatur, which had about 25,700 residents last year, the Census Bureau estimated.

Decatur, which says it is the most densely populated city in the state, grew by nearly 31% — about 6,000 residents — since 2010, when about 19,600 people lived there.

Hugh Saxon, Decatur’s deputy city manager, said that growth can largely be attributed to new housing in downtown Decatur and near the Avondale Estates MARTA station. Several multi-story, mixed-use housing developments were built in Decatur over the last decade, and others are currently under construction.

“To me, that indicates the attractiveness of downtown Decatur as a place to live,” Saxon said, “which has always been a focus of our planning.”

In recent years, the city has put a greater focus on adding more paths and bicycle lanes through downtown, as the main corridors became more busy.

MORE LOCAL NEWS: Brookhaven employees returning to City Hall with new protections, policies

He said the city’s population dropped in the ’70s and ’80s as household size declined, but has rebounded. He wondered whether an uptick in average household size in Decatur’s residential neighborhoods is also behind the latest population increase.

“It’s a combination of lifestyle, the schools, the opportunity to live in a high-quality, urban environment,” Saxon said.

For all DeKalb cities, population changes from 2018 to 2019 were minor, according to the estimates. Brookhaven and Chamblee each grew about 2%.

Pine Lake is still the least populous city in DeKalb, with an estimated 754 residents.

The estimates are separate from the ongoing 2020 Census, which seeks to achieve an exact count of United States residents as of April 2020. The numbers released Thursday are from an annual report designed to reflect estimated population counts from July 1, 2019.

Brookhaven’s population is likely to grow again for the 2020 Census count, because about 2,000 people became residents in December 2019, when the LaVista Park neighborhood was annexed into the city. Brookhaven has already grown by about 12% since 2010.

Here are all of the 2019 population estimates for cities in DeKalb County, according to the Census Bureau:

  • Avondale Estates: 3,129

Brookhaven: 55,554
  • Chamblee: 30,307
  • Clarkston: 12,637
  • Decatur: 25,696
  • Doraville: 10,265
  • Dunwoody: 49,356
  • Lithonia: 2,331
  • Pine Lake: 754
  • Stonecrest: 54,903
  • Stone Mountain: 6,281
  • Tucker: 36,395
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