Through various journalistic forms and outlets the media has lately been placing theories that Zagreb’s center is dying out, or rather, has already faded away. As a case in point they cite stories of elderly women languishing in their too big, decrepit apartments which they can’t maintain, primary schools which should be shut down as there are not enough children in attendance or numerous office spaces which are shut down for business. We could speculate about the reasons as to why the topic of Zagreb’s center was intensified now, is there a journalistic or citizen concern for the processes which are unfolding in the center, and bear similarity to most European city centers or are there less-than-noble motives at stake here, whose interests lie in declaring the city center dead. However, we are interested in what the numbers are telling us, what the structure of Lower Town’s population is – the area from the Republic of Austria Street to Kvaternik Square – that part which we consider to be Zagreb’s center.
That is precisely Dr. Tihomir Jukić’s area of interest, a town planner from the Zagreb Faculty of Architecture, who states that the center of Zagreb isn’t undergoing any particular or rapid process of “dying out”, but is going through what Vienna and Graz have already experienced, and have thus found models for increasing the attractiveness of their town centers.
In his work, Dr. Jukić used data from the National Institute of Statistics, but the last official results are those collected by the 2001 census. According to them, the Lower Town – an area of 3.2 square kilometers – had 45.108 inhabitants. From which the 24-and-under age bracket made up a total of 23.4% Lower Town population, almost as many as the population over 65 years of age (23.2%). According to newer records the average age of the population in the center is 45.4 years of age. Hence, it cannot be said that the mainly older population inhabit the town center. The total number of households is 18.213, while the number of apartments is 21.548, the average apartment measuring 69.76m2. The apartments in the center are expensive and relatively large, parking possibilities extremely limited, public transport of poor quality, expensive and slow, which are probably the main reasons as to why young families don’t inhabit the center in larger numbers. Thus in the Lower Town, there were 2489 births and 5903 deaths within the 2001–2008 timeframe, therefore stemming a negative natural increase amounting to – 3416 inhabitants. However, the tendency of the number of deaths in relation to the number of births is on the decrease, thus the dying-out theory isn’t corroborated from that viewpoint either.
That is what the numbers tell us, however, the truth is that the city’s center needs a transformation or revitalization plan. We’ll continue to follow up on this topic.