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Fall River Open Space Plan
i.) Population Growth,Projections & Density
Fall River's population decreased by -7.24% between 1960 and 1990. By 1990, the city's population had decreased by 7,239 persons. This decline occurred in a period of vigorous (30%) population growth in Bristol County and a moderate statewide population increase of nearly 17%.
The Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Development Research (MISER), located at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, is an organization that collects and analyzes demographic information for the State and has done a series of population projections for all Massachusetts cities and towns. The projections are based on fourteen different county models, with birth, survival and migration components figured into each model.
The Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) utilizes town building permit data from 1980 to 1987. This projection is significantly lower (9,494) people) than the MISER data and, therefore, provides the community with a high and low estimate. The town's actual population in 2010 will probably be somewhere in between the two projections.
Fall River ranks first in population density (persons per square mile) of the six abutting communities. Using the MISER population projections for 2010, Fall River will have a density of approximately 3,113 people per square mile. It is important to note that these figures are skewed by the fact that the eastern half of Fall River is almost entirely undeveloped. Population density in the urban western half of the City is likely to be 70-80% greater thatn the 2,945 figure.
This density has important implications for open space and recreation planning, especially since an active construction market is causing existing privately-owned open space in the developed part of the city to gradually disappear. This highlights the need to protect available open space within or on the edge of residential neighborhoods where a need is apparent and to identify small lots that can be land-banked for use as pocket parks in the future.
The density should also be considered when looking at the larger area of Fall River and the extent to which suburban sprawl will convert what is now open into suburban residential development.
Fall River and the surrounding communities show very similar age distributions. For all communities involved (see Table 4), the largest segment of the population is the 25-44 year old age group. In Fall River, almost half of the population is between 25 and 64 years of age (46.4%).
An interesting facet of this data is that the percent of persons under 17 years of age is higher in Fall River than in most of the surrounding suburban ciommunities. Fall River is not, as commonly thought, a city of older people but has a population mix that has a need for a full range of open space and recreational amenities.
Over 73% of Fall River's family households are married couple households. Fall River has fewer married households than both Bristol County (79%) and the State of Massachusetts (77.2%). Conversely, there are significantly more single female heads of households (22.3%) as compared to both Bristol County (17.1%) and the State (17.9%). In addition, there is a tendency toward smaller households. Over 60% of all households are 1 or 2 person households.
Fall River has 30 elementary schools, 11 private parochial elementary schools, 4 middle schools, 1 high school, 1 vocational-technical school and 1 private, parochial high school. Fall River is also home to Bristol Community College. As of September 1996, 11,875 students were enrolled in Fall River's public school system.
Fall River's residents generally earn lower incomes in comparison to Bristol County and the State. This figure is consistant with the relatively large percentage of families below the poverty level (See Table 7).
The low indicators for income, low education levels and high ratios of single parent households suggests that it is important to provide open space and recreational opportunities in close poximity to Fall River's urban population. In general, the population does not have the financial resources to invest in expensive vacation travel to distant places. What is needed is the enhancement of no-cost recreational opportunities that are available in the city: walking along the ocean; enjoyment of scenic vistas of Mount Hope Bay, the Taunton River or the city's ponds; bicycling, jogging or rollerblading along a bikepath; fishing in one of the city's ponds or in the Bay; boating at Heritage State Park; playing soccer, baseball, softball or football on a well-maintained field; exploring a wooded trail; or simply walking along a tree-shaded neighborhood street.
In comparision to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, private sector employment in Fall River is more heavily concentrated in the manufacturing sector. Statewide, only 21% of total private employment is classified as manufacturing. Fall River, however, still has 32.5% of its jobs classified within the manufacturing sector. This concentration is nearly 50% greater than the statewide share of manufacturing jobs. Service sector occupations represent only 27.3% or 1 in 4 jobs locally.
There is a higher concentration of retail sector employment in Fall River than is the case statewide. However, the differential is relatively small. In Fall River 24% of private employment is classified within the sales and administrative support sector, while statewide 29% of jobs are within the sales and administrative support sector. Figures from the Massachusetts Division of Employment and Training show the wholesale industry in Fall RIver has been steadily declining since 1985.
The average payroll per employee in the Fall River area is also substantially below the Commonwealth average earnings. In the Fall River area, for example, the average payroll per employee in 1989 was $18,129.00 in comparison to $25,014.00 statewide. Furthermore, within the manufacturing sector the average payroll in the Fall River area was $19,301.00 in comparison to $30,926.00 statewide. Service sector jobs in the Fall River area averaged $18,962.00 per employee, while statewide service jobs averaged $24,010.00 per employee.
Finally, analysis of data on commuting patterns indicates that for certain occupations, namely, management and administrative jobs, as well as certain high skilled manufacturing occupations, a disproportionately high number of Fall River workers commuted on a daily basis to other labor markets in the Boston area and in Rhode Island.
Estimates by the Massachusetts Division of Employment and Training show a higher unemployment rate for Fall River than for both Bristol County and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The unemployment rates have soared from a low of 6.6% in 1988 to the highest mark of 17.1% in 1991. Since 1991, the unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing to the most recent figure of 9.6% as of April 1997.
Fall Rivers housing stock is composed primarily of two to four family homes, with this segment making up 49.1% of Fall Rivers housing. Fall River has significantly more multiple housing units than the County and the State.
Data shows that the annual number of permits issued for new construction for housing and non-residential development in Fall River steadily increased from 1982 to 1989. In 1990, however, that trend was broken with a reduction in new construction permits to early 1980s levels. Since that time, permits for new single and multi family construction have shown a slow upward trend.
Between 1980 and 1996, 6,975 residential and 4,286 non-residential building permits were issued. The majority of residential permits issued were for additions and/or alterations rather than for new construction. The greatest number of residential permits issued for a given year occurred in 1987 (628 permits). Since that time, the number of permits issued per year decreased steadily to a 1995 level of 412 permits. 1996, however, saw an increase in buildiing permits to 521.
Very few non-residential permits have been issued for commercial and industrial construction. The majority of permits were for additions and/or alterations or for other projects. The largest number of non-residential building permits issued in a given year occurred in 1988 (911 permits).