We've fallen out of the magic circle.
Population numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau reinforced an emerging trend: Lawrence is no longer part of a group of Kansas City suburbs that consistently grow faster than the statewide average.
Lawrence's population grew by 0.8 percent from July 2006 to July 2007. That represented an increase of 742 people for a total of 89,852.
"Given the current economic conditions, I feel pretty good that we have at least shown some growth," Mayor Mike Dever said.
Lawrence's growth rate of 0.8 percent was slightly above the statewide average of 0.7 percent. In terms of actual people, the 742-person increase was the eighth highest total in the state.
Lawrence continues to be the sixth most populous city in Kansas.
But Lawrence's latest growth rate is significantly less than the community's historical average of about 2 percent. During the 1980s and 1990s, it was typical for Lawrence's growth rate to be more than double that of the state's. In that regard, Lawrence was much like a host of Kansas City suburbs.
In Kansas City suburbia, the beat goes on. K.C. suburban growth rates have slowed from the heady days of the 1990s, but the traditional hotspots remain hot. On average, Olathe, Overland Park, Lenexa, Gardner, Spring Hill, Louisburg, Tonganoxie, Basehor and De Soto had a population growth rate nearly six times higher than the statewide average.
Dever said higher fuel prices and Johnson County's more aggressive expansion to the south instead of to the west has made Lawrence less desirable to some commuters who previously would have made a home in Lawrence.
Fred Sherman, a former Lawrence planner who is now Gardner's community development director, said some people also think they can get a better housing value in parts of southern Johnson County or Miami County.
"I think some people feel like they are still paying a little bit of a paradise tax to live in Lawrence," Sherman said.
Dever said Lawrence's long-term solution is to bring more jobs to the city so people can live closer to where they work.