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?

Map: Detroit Freight Terminals, Docks, and Warehouses 1936

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From the Detroit Traffic Survey 1936-1937, you can see a strong shift to the West of industry and freight that we still see today. Both rail and waterways made this a prime location for moving goods.

“The size of each of the black circles in Figure 15 indicates the number of truck movements to and from each terminal, dock and warehouse during a typical twelve-hour business day. Twenty-six of the largest terminals, docks and warehouses in the city are situated in the area bounded by West Grand Boulevard, Michigan Avenue, Woodward Avenue and the Detroit River.” (pg. 45)

Map: Detroit Freeways Reimagined as Subway Lines


Detroiters and non-Detroiters alike will never stop fantasizing about having a robust and connected rapid transit system. MetroTimes found Jake Berman‘s recent effort to crowdsource freeways as subway lines and Curbed Detroit had a follow-up.

These fantasy maps are often trailed by comments of “what’s the point” or “we’re never gunna have that,” but why stop dreaming? I still think we have a great opportunity to convert the inside lane of every expressway into a rail lane (think Metro in Chicago). There’s even a concept from the 1941 Detroit traffic planning:



Mapping the Green Book in Detroit 1938 – 1963

In 1937, Victor H. Green published “The Negro Motorist Green Book” in order to:

“compile facts and information connected with motoring, which the Negro Motorist can use and depend upon.”

The 1937 edition was limited to New York City, but by 1938 it was “listing all of the States east of the Mississippi River.” The Green Book became a directory of an different kind of “underground railroad” for the Jim Crow era allowing African Americans to map the most welcoming routes to reach vacation spots, hotels, beauty parlors, service stations, mechanic shops, and more. The Green Book regularly included State specific traffic laws and issues for African American motorists to watch out for.

Detroit first appeared in the 1938 edition of the Green Book with listings for 9 hotels, 2 night clubs, and 1 service station. They are located in a very small area where there was a high density of non-White residents.


By 1949, Detroit’s extensive listings demonstrate how it became a mecca for Black tourism and entertainment at the height of Paradise Valley. Not surprisingly, the Green Book locations match exactly with areas of Detroit with more Black residents (due to restrictive and discriminatory housing policies). The 1949 edition also included listings for Canada and Mexico.


By later editions, in 1963, a defining year for the Civil Rights Movement, the Green Book lacks welcoming amenity listings and instead includes pages on national and local laws so that African American motorists can know their rights while traveling.


The Green Book in some ways reflected the state of the nation in a given year with respect to discrimination, racism, and the rights of African Americans. Today we’ve seen more visible displays of racism. Through my research on food access people often tell me about using word of mouth to avoid discriminatory grocery stores. I can only imagine the extent to which this type of directory is being maintained by word of mouth still today. We have a much work to do so that all may travel with dignity and without fear in their own cities and those they hope to visit.

Thanks to the Green Books collection at NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for making these texts available.

Map: Detroit Commercial Traffic Volume Flow 1936

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The harsh and almost disturbing display of traffic volume data makes me think of dystopian urban nightmare with duct work of varying size funneling where people can go. This map comes from the ‘Detroit Traffic Survey” conducted in 1936, published in 1937 and led to many of the freeway developments that we now see today. The data presented in this way possibly had a strong effect on the policymakers hoping to rid Detroit of the dystopian tangle of traffic congestion.

Map: SWAT Raids in Detroit 2013 – 2015


Accompanying an article titled “Policing the Poor in Detroit,” this map denotes the seventeen raids associated with Chief Craig’s “Operation Restore Order” as well as median incomes in the areas where raids happened.

Notes: Each starred site lists the date of the raid and the 2013 median household income of the surrounding census block group. The raids that killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Terrance Kellom are included on the map, although these were not part of Operation Restore Order. As the map shows, median income in most areas targeted by police operations fell well below the city average of $25,000. Thanks to Mallika Roy for help creating this graphic.
Sources: Detroit News;
More from the article:
“The geography of these raids follows a larger pattern of uneven development in Detroit. Even as finance capital and real estate investment pour into Greater Downtown, residents of the East and West Sides have endured service cuts, water shutoffs, and the largest foreclosure crisis in U.S. history.”

Map: Hour Detroit’s Neighborhood Guide


Hamtramck is a neighborhood of Detroit, no question – Hour Detroit has spoken. This funky 50s-ish style artistic map picks and chooses the, perhaps, suburbanite favorite neighborhoods to visit? The map also takes some interesting liberties with denoting place and space. Southwest extends all the way north to Grand River Ave? Midtown Detroit Inc. would definitely contest the zig-zag squiggle shown here as their impact area.