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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Detroit's battered image

The results of a new survey about Detroit has recently been released by Intellitrends and the Detroit Regional News Hub. Unsurprisingly, most Detroiters think the city is portrayed negatively by the media (91%), and we also think Detroit is viewed negatively nationwide (85%). Thankfully, only 61% of non-Michiganians have a really bad perception of Detroit, though of course this still needs to be improved.

Most damning: "Six in 10 non-Michigan residents think Detroit and southeast Michigan is a poor place to live; one in two think it's a poor place to invest in, and one in three think the region is a poor place to do business" (

On a positive note, about half of us love living in the area, despite its flaws. Also, almost one third of Metro-Detroiters go downtown weekly, and visiting among 18-34 year olds to downtown appear to be higher. Hopefully, the renewed interest in downtown by a younger demographic will help bring revitalization at last.

Full results can be found at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Best park

After yesterday's troubling designation as one of the world's most dangerous cities, a bit of positive news today. Campus Martius was named the nation's top urban park by the Urban Land Institute:

Campus Martius is small, just two acres, but a lot of activities happen there at various points of the year - if anything is happening downtown, it likely takes place (in part at least) at Campus Martius. Of course, the problem is, I don't believe it is terribly well utilized unless something is happening downtown.

It is too bad Belle Isle isn't just a little closer to downtown.

Now we just need to get Detroit's other parks in order...and maybe clear up some more nice park space downtown and midtown while we are at it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bad Detroit as dangerous as Karachi, Juarez, Beirut or Baghdad?

Unfortunate, and I have a hard time believing it, but CNN has identified ten cities as the most dangerous in the world. It didn't rank them, but alas, Detroit is on the list. What do you think?

Sure Detroit is not safe, but I don't think it is in the same category as a chaotic place like Juarez or Baghdad.

In other bad news, it looks like Cobo might NOT expand after all. It is nice that the new regional authority is showing some fiscal responsibility and is evaluating the NPV of expanding, after years of massive losses, but I don't think SEMI can afford to lose a signature event like the NAIAS. That is exactly what is at stake here. Seeing as the economic impact of the NAIAS runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, I hope the regional board can conclude that expansion is worth it. It would seem like it is, if they don't just consider Cobo's own cash flow. I am afraid that they might not consider it, however...

On the positive side, it looks like more good news is coming out of Midtown (after DMC, Henry Ford mega investments). We will be getting a nice greenway belt around a 2 mile loop near Wayne State. Groundbreaking was today:

Also, we will be hosting a massive congregation of activists this summer. 10,000 do-gooders like ourselves will be massing in Detroit, ground zero of the Great Recession. There's some economic impact for you...

Lastly, if you ever wondered what sections of Detroit Matty Moroun controls, the Free Press did a nice piece on it. Here it is:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

U-M helps lay foundation for future of Detroit

U-M helps lay foundation for future of Detroit

Deborah Meyers Greene
Public Affairs

Through their work on the new Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS), the Ginsberg Center, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the university’s Detroit Center, and 26 current graduate students and recent alumni have played a foundational role in strategizing the city’s future.

Following a period of extended economic and cultural challenge that dates back to the 1950s, vast stretches of the city lay blighted or vacant.

“The harsh reality is that some areas are no longer viable neighborhoods with the population loss and financial situation our city faces,” Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said March 23 in his State of the City address. “Strengthening our city will take a long-term strategy for how we use Detroit’s 140 square miles more productively.”

DRPS data will help decision-makers identify exactly which neighborhoods are threatened by blight, which can be revived with support and which continue to thrive. This critical knowledge will help the city’s leadership determine “what areas of our city are best suited for residential use, commercial and industrial businesses, parks and green space,” Bing said.

“According to the survey, 86 percent of the city’s single-family homes are in good condition, and only about 9 percent require relatively minor repairs,” says Margaret Dewar, Ginsberg faculty director and professor of urban and regional planning at Taubman College. “This means that 95 percent of the city’s single-family housing stock should be suitable for occupancy.” The survey also found that 91,000 residential lots, or 26 percent, are vacant.

Carrying primary responsibility for fieldwork coordination, the Ginsberg Center utilized the university’s Detroit Center as a base of operations for the recruitment, training and supervision of 48 surveyors, who drove in three-person teams through every Detroit neighborhood during six weeks in August and September 2009.

Anticipating Bing’s promise that “every Detroiter has a voice and a role in this process,” at least one, and sometimes two of the three were current residents of the city. Together, they assessed and recorded the condition of approximately 343,000 residential properties housing from one to four families.

“It was an awesome experience,” says Robert Linn, a 2009 social science graduate of the Residential College, now in his first year of the Taubman College’s Master of Urban Planning Program. “I learned there’s a real debate, that there is not a singular vision for the city. Everyone has an opinion and a stake in the outcome.

“My family and friends from my old near-east-side neighborhood have one vision that people from the northwest or southwest sides don’t necessarily share,” says Linn, a native Detroiter and creator and host of the weekly “From Belle Isle to 8 Mile” jazz and soul music show, now in its fifth year on U-M student radio station WCBN.

“These are the best data ever accumulated on the city’s residential properties,” says Dewar, “and they have many uses.” One example is the 2010 U.S. census. The Census Bureau will use the data to help allocate staff who follow up with census non-respondents.

“The data also could help in decisions about where to locate city services like public safety and health resources, mass transit, garbage collection and more, like reshaping the public schools,” says Eric Dueweke, community partnerships manager at the Taubman College and overall site supervisor for the survey.

The data, which are accessible in the university’s Spatial and Numeric Data Services lab, promise to support current and future teaching and research. “We’re using the data in a class that Eric and I are co-teaching this semester,” Dewar says, “and I can see countless research applications for the future.”

DRPS was underwritten by the Detroit Economic Growth Association with funds coming from Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 21 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions dedicated to improving the lives of low-income people in America’s urban areas.

DRPS is a project of the Detroit Data Collaborative, which includes the Detroit Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Response; Community Legal Resources, Detroit Vacant Property Campaign; Data Driven Detroit (formerly Detroit-Area Community Information System); and Living Cities.


Friday, April 9, 2010

"Fresh Food Access in Detroit -- A Community Action Panel"

I just received the following email today, and thought I'd pass it along in case people are interested and didn't know about it already:


Ypsilanti Health Initiative and Public Health Students of African Descent present:

Fresh Food Access in Detroit -- A Community Action Panel

Tuesday, April 13
SPH II Room 1020

With the following speakers:

1. Meredith Freeman, Director of Fair Food Network Detroit
2. Russ Russel, Chief Development Officer of Forgotten Harvest
3. Dan Carmody, President of Eastern Market Corporation

Food will be provided!! Hope to see you there!!

Stefanie DeVita
MPH Candidate, 2011
Department of Epidemiology
University of Michigan School of Public Health

Noam Kimelman
Health Policy & Urban Planning
MPH & MUP Dual Degree Candidate, 2012