Map: Heat and Income in Detroit

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NPR‘s recent analysis of heat impacts using NASA/U.S. Geological Survey satellite imagery and U.S. Census American Community Survey data showed no correlation with income in Detroit. However, it has been well documented that extreme heat affects low-income cities more acutely.

Map: Detroit’s Coworking Landscape Stabilizing 2019

In 2014, I mapped out Detroit’s coworking landscape based on cost of monthly membership at a drop-in or “hot desk.” Besides using a bad map projection, I failed to account for the exclusive nature of many coworking spaces in Detroit’s Downtown. In 2017, I mapped the change in coworking spaces with a focus on locations that closed and increases in costs. Besides there being 12 new coworking spaces in the city in 2017 (7 closures), costs remained relatively stable.


In 2019, the coworking landscape hasn’t altered much with just 2 new spaces (4 closures). Costs still remain stable with increases seen at some of the newer spaces launched in 2017 as new access points for marginalized groups, including parents and women. Ponyride is completely moving locations after selling their building as part of the Greater Corktown real estate boom spurred by Ford Motor Company moving into the neighborhood.

Coworking remains a predominantly Downtown and Midtown activity with just a few neighborhood opportunities outside of the 7.2 square mile area of concentrated revitalization. Seems that coworking efforts would be a strong opportunity for the libraries to get, keep, and innovate with new funding?


Map: Downtown Detroit’s Unbuilt Highline and Superblocks 1950s


This conceptual plan takes the idea of dedicated space for people to gather to an entirely new level. If this plan had been implemented, Detroit would have had a Highline well before The collected works of Gerald Crane and Norbert Gorwic (CG) highlights their pedestrian focused plan for Downtown Detroit:

“In the superblocks surrounding the core system of elevated decks provides for the complete separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The top of the decks form a new level of pedestrian squares and piazzas linked by pedestrian bridges, making possible an uninterrupted walk through the entire Central Business District. Vehicular access and parking facilities are provided beneath the decks.

Then came the People Mover, but could it be possible to link existing parking decks as rooftop parks connected by pedestrian bridges?


Map: Neighbor to Neighbor Community Outreach Zones 2018


In 2018, the Quicken Loans Community Fund and the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC) undertook the enormous effort of surveying every property headed to tax foreclosure and produced the Neighbor to Neighbor report. Early survey efforts in 2015 had previously taken place on a smaller scale as part of the Motor City Mapping project, although this report was given the tagline: “the first Detroit property tax foreclosure census.”

This map gives an interesting view of the reach and coverage of various community organizations in Detroit. Some are specifically focused on housing instability, but many of the community organizations that partnered have a wide range of issue topics that they engage in.

Map: Presidential Detroit 2020 Candidate Stops


During the 2016 election cycle I tracked campaigns stops by candidates and their surrogates in Detroit. I wondered how the recent 2020 Democratic candidates reached geographically during the month of July before, during, and after the debates hosted in Detroit. The question I most often saw on Facebook and Twitter was: “Did any of the candidates make it out of the 7.2 square mile area of Downtown?”

The Detroit Free Press attempted to aggregate and map candidate stops and sightings, but had a number of missing events including the Qline shutdown caused by Joe Biden and Mike Duggan’s visit to Detroit One Coney Island.


There were a few candidates that made the effort to go beyond Downtown. Notably, Jay Inslee visited 48217 and the Detroit Islamic Center, Kirsten Gillibrand spent a lot of time hanging out and working out in West Village, but by far Kamala Harris was all across the map in Downtown, West Village, and visiting struggling businesses along the Livernois Avenue of Fashion. Three candidates made it beyond Downtown, but much of Detroit was left unseen. Hopefully future candidate trips will seek to engage more residents across the city.



Workshop: Detroit Counter Cartography and Mapping

DMRJ Workshop(1)

Mapping is a powerful tool to influence positive change for people, programs, and policies. Participants will be lead through a skills-building in map creation, maps to highlight under-represented narratives, and mapping to advance social justice causes.

WHEN: Saturday, September 14th @ 9am – 2pm (Lunch provided)

WHERE: WSU Anthropology Computer Lab, Old Main Building (corner of Cass and Warren), Room 1143

RSVP: Link (limited to 22 participants)

Map: Detroit Square – Transforming Cultural Center

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The design team has been selected from the three finalists to transform Detroit’s Cultural Center. The proposal seeks to radically change 10 blocks around 12 cultural and educational institutions in Midtown.

These efforts harken back to the 1970s plans by the Detroit City Plan Commission that included a large central park and long malls to connect various institutions.

Map: Metro Detroit’s Political Geography 2016


In FiveThirthyEight‘s recent project, they find the nuances of political geography for major metropolitan areas. Metro Detroit is not in the top 20 “most politically polarized” cities or regions. As the map shows, Metro Detroit, anchored by the City of Detroit, is heavily Democrat with a halo of evenly split inner ring suburbs, before dispersing to more Republican favored precincts around the edges of the region.

Map: Detroit’s Surveillance State 2019


Project Green Light has become something more than imagined. More from America Under Watch:

“Detroit’s real-time face surveillance is designed to operate together with a program called Project Green Light Detroit, an initiative launched in January 2016 that has dramatically expanded the city’s network of surveillance cameras. The city has pitched the initiative as a way to deter crime and improve police response times to incidents at locales across the city. Its original focus was on businesses open during late-night hours such as gas stations, fast food restaurants, and liquor stores. Partner locations now also include churches, hotels, clinics, addiction treatment centers, affordable housing apartments, and schools.”

Map: Detroit’s Jewish Food Scene 2018


Food in Detroit is typically signified by Downtown dining, Eastern Market, and urban agriculture, but there are numerous ethnic enclaves bringing metro Detroit amazing foods to eat. Nosher highlights some of the best locations with this nice illustrated map by Aly Miller.

Detroit is a city defined by resourcefulness, entrepreneurship, and a fascinating tension between honoring the old and embracing the new. The same could be said of Detroit’s Jewish food scene, where iconic delis and bakeries operate beside upstart food businesses (yet everyone still sources Sy Ginsberg corned beef and Ma Cohen’s smoked fish), and where urban gardens that feed the local community are sprouting up on previously vacant lots.

Map: Death Rates by Ward in Detroit 1890

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The 1890 Census report on Vital and Social Statistics specifically covered cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. In Detroit:

“The area of the city on June 1, 1890 was 13,173 acres, and the number of dwellings was 86,993, containing 42,200 families and a total population of 205,870, giving an average of 2.81 dwellings and 15.63 persons to an acre, 5.57 persons to a dwelling and 4.88 persons to a family.

The colored population of the city was 3,454, located principally in wards 1, 3, 5, and 7. In the remaining wards the population of this class was too small to give rates of any value.”

Each ward has a table breaking down death rates for different races as well as children under age 5. Even without the tables it is visually apparent there were racial health disparities in Detroit with the highest death rates in the same wards as the largest number of Black residents.

Map: Middle-Class Neighborhoods in metro Detroit

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In the new report from Detroit Future City, their team highlights what is talked about less often and also what isn’t news: black families and middle class families leave Detroit and there are a host of problems that make them not want to come back or move here in the first place.

The city has set a goal to measure success by people moving back into the city, but perhaps the new metrics should be how many middle-class black families move back to the city?

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Mapping All the Trees in Detroit with Machine Learning

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Descartes Labs led by Tim Wallace, formerly of NYT Graphics, is mapping all the city trees. They note that many large cities pay huge sums of money for tree surveys, but those hardly capture all the trees and typically only count street trees. Machine learning with satellite imagery takes care of this so that you can see all the trees and their densities. Obviously, this is not new either, but the machine learning bit automates the process to be quicker than traditional tree canopy analyses.

It looks like Palmer Park has the most dense tree canopy in the city, followed by Belle Isle.

More from Descartes Labs:

Much fuss has been made over city trees in recent years. Urban trees reduce crime and help stormwater management (yay!). Cities and towns across the U.S. are losing 36 million trees a year (boo!). But, hold up—climate change is accelerating the growth of urban trees in metropolises worldwide (boo/yay?). Urban trees are under such scrutiny right now that the U.N. even had a World Forum on Urban Forests a few weeks ago to discuss the planning, design and management of urban forests and green infrastructure.

Map: Green Infrastructure Spatial Planning Model Detroit

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The Green Infrastructure Spatial Planning (GISP) model created by Sara Meerow of the University of Michigan Urban Sustainability Research Group provides a methodology for identifying strategic green infrastructure ‘hotspots’. 

The GISP model is made up of six GIS layers corresponding to planning priorities (stormwater management, social vulnerability, access to green space, air quality, the urban heat island effect, and landscape connectivity). Individual criteria are mapped and spatial tradeoffs and synergies assessed. Then the criteria are weighted based on local expert stakeholders’ priorities and combined to identify hotspots.

From her published research, Meerow also found that current green infrastructure efforts did not match with her model’s hotspots.

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Map: Cultural Center Design Plan 1970

This map comes from “Detroit 1990: an Urban Design Concept for the Inner City” that the Department of City Planning published in 1970. This concept for the Cultural Center is especially interesting as competition continues to select a new concept for the DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections effort.

The City Plan Commission suggested expanding the Cultural Center in 1965 with a proposal for a large central park and long malls connecting various cultural institutions with links to the University and Medical Center areas.

Map: Black Bottom Streetview


Black Bottom is somewhat of a mythical area of Detroit that gave rise to some of the city’s most important African American cultural institutions along with its sister neighborhood Paradise Valley that stretched north to Warren Ave.

“We feel that Black Bottom’s stories must be shared—especially at this critical moment in Detroit’s history,” says the written statement by project organizer Emily Kutil. “Black Bottom Street View is a project to visualize Detroit’s historic Black Bottom neighborhood.”

The Black Bottom area was acquired by the City of Detroit under eminent domain and razed due to the slum conditions, although Mayor Cobo was well known for his racist sentiments.

Visit the stitched together black and white photos of each block of Black Bottom in the Detroit Public Library’s Strohm Hall through March 2019.

Map: Detroit’s Human Terrain

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Human Terrain.

Population Pyramid.

Population Mountain.

This recent project from Matt Daniels of The Pudding plays on all these different monikers for the population density of cities. Detroit is definitely not a mountain or pyramid, but perhaps a significant mound among world populations living in cities.


Map: Cycling Map of Wayne County 1979


This map is part of a 48 maps series for every county in Michigan from the Michigan Natural Resources Magazine publication of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The Michigan DNR did not suggest many non-recreation locations for cycling in the county or City of Detroit. Rouge Park, Palmer Park, Belle Isle, and Chandler Park are all highlights for cycling in Detroit.


Map: Opportunity Zones, Gentrification, and Quicken Loans 2018


Last year’s tax overhaul included provisions for “opportunity zones” to boost low-income neighborhoods, however in many cities those tend to include the already heavily invested in zones. In Detroit, that includes all of Downtown, Midtown, and the Riverfront – arguably areas that don’t necessarily need additional incentives for investment.

Map: Heidelberg Project Artifacts around Detroit


Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project has defined the near Eastside of Detroit for more than 30 years. The McDougall-Hunt area is typically where people visit the Heidelberg Project houses and works of art, but Tyree has spread his influence across the Eastside, from Mt. Elliott to Eastern Market.

The Heidelberg Project has a somewhat clearly defined area along Heidelberg Street between Mt. Elliott and Ellery, but I noticed countless artifacts (think #TyreeDot) spread across the Eastside near the project area.

From March 2017 and May 2018 I began driving the streets one-by-one beyond the Heidelberg Street core. Tyree has a very recognizable painted dot, often paints a “1 2 3” number series, and clocks, clocks, clocks. As I came to the end of May 2018, I noticed the graffiti and demolition brigades were starting to remove many of the artifacts that I found. The bones of an old brick house were demolished and a Tyree clock artifact was lost, the graffiti team did a sweep of Mt. Elliott and numerous clocks and dots were covered in layer of brown paint, as a result many of these mapped artifacts no longer exist.

The Polka Dot House is the iconic symbol of the Heidelberg Project, but Tyree painted dots across the Eastside and likely painted more clocks on vacant, abandoned, and blighted structures in the neighborhood.

What’s up with all the clocks?

The clocks have become a major theme at the Heidelberg Project and we find that this is a time for us to reflect where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going.

In a more philosophical sense, the clocks parallel reference to what the great philosopher Plato said about time, which was that “time is a moving image of reality” and how Albert Einstein said that “time is an illusion.” Therefore, the times painted on the clocks do not hold a particular meaning in reference to time but pose questions of: What time is it? What is your reality? What time is it for you in the world today?