Map: Cityscape Model of Paradise Valley 1950

I happened to visit Dilla’s Delights for a quick coffee refuel while Downtown and was pleasantly surprised to have a historical streetscape popping out of the wall. The model is credited to an architectural design course at Lawrence Technological University in 1994.

The model marks important venues in 1950s Paradise Valley although it should be noted that historically, Paradise Valley reached further north up to Kirby Street.

Map: New Rainbow Street Sweeping Strategy 2017


In this year’s State of the City, Mayor Duggan announced the purchase of new street sweepers when there had been none operating in the last 7 years. DPW has announced the start of cleaning for the city’s 2,000 miles of streets.

It would seem that a sequential color scheme would work best since the colors are meant to convey street-sweeping over time, moving from the East of the city to the West. Lightest color gets swept first, darkest gets swept last within the 2 week cycle.


Map: Detroit Dog Parks Size Comparison 2016

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A helpful little map comparison of the available parks for dogs and how big they are. This comparison was included in the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department (DPRD) and General Services Department (GSD) “2016 Parks and Recreation Improvement Plan.”

Map: “Point of Origin” Viaduct Installation

The Detroit-based agency, Mindfield, was selected by Midtown Detroit Inc. to fill this empty spot below the Second Avenue viaduct. The piece is called “Point of Origin” and appears to be a series of metal cutouts that look like maps of Detroit, however Detroit’s true “point of origin” is not depicted on any of the panels. The expressways seem to be the most easily recognizable feature.

There is some interesting back lighting that is still in progress.

Map: Detroit Water Pollution Overflow Points Location 1978

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This map was generated to aid in future sewer pollution control planning from the report “Detroit water pollution control system segmented facilities: environmental impact statement.

I just thought the map design was a bit wild when there are so many opportunities along the Detroit River for pollution overflow on the way to the waste treatment plant.

Map: Wayne State Campus Master Plan 2020

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In 1998, Albert Kahn Associates conducted surveys and assessments to develop a Master Plan for what Wayne State University could look like in 2020.

Some of the main takeaways were focused on a more consolidated campus by developing existing spaces already owned by WSU. Notable proposed buildings are the parking structure/housing structure that curve with the expressways, new housing attached to the medical school parking structure, and massive multi-building arena complex on Warren Ave.

Extending the campus to include a brand new School of Business nearly all the way to the edge of Downtown was not in the Master Plan.


Map: Detroit Tuberculosis Deaths 1939 – 1940

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This map from the Detroit City Plan Commission’s report titled: “The People of Detroit” brings the city’s health into focus. Much of Detroit’s public health infrastructure was built to address tuberculosis. The now empty and redeveloping Herman Kiefer Hospital was constructed in 1911 for the express purpose of eliminating tuberculosis in Detroit.

“The highest incidence of venereal disease is among Negro males. Mortality due to tuberculosis and pneumonia is highest in the area within the Boulevard, and lowest in the newly developing areas on the outskirts of the city. Insofar as the rates are the result of living conditions in deteriorating and blighted areas, remedial action to be applied would need to be more far-reaching than wider extension of medical care.”

Map: Detroit’s Belle Isle Master Plan 2005

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Who couldn’t love a updated “hand drawn” style map of Detroit’s largest park?

From the Belle Isle Master Plan:

The Belle Isle Park Master Plan was prepared over a two-year period from 1996-1997. In 1998 the plan was reviewed and presented to the Detroit City Council. In 1999, City Council members took the plan to the community by holding public discussions at neighborhood recreation centers throughout the City to acquaint citizens with the plan and solicit more input. The final report was compiled in 2000; it is presented in two parts, the Comprehensive Renovation Plan and a Technical Assessment Report.  In 2005, the Master Plan was updated to reflect ongoing improvements and an updated cost estimate.

Map: Detroit’s Changing Coffee Landscape 2017


The recent announcement of Cafe con Leche’s second closing is bittersweet for many as new coffee ventures are brewing. El Club is looking to expand with a cafe space, Cake Ambition won Motor City Match funding, MACC is working on a cafe laundromat space, and Stef-N-Ty plan to add a coffee shop next door to their store in the Northend.

In my 2015 analysis of coffee places in Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck I identified some 54 coffee shops in Detroit. Considerably more than the 21 count that has been floating around. However, due to the nature of Detroit’s economic and retail recovery, many national chains chose to locate inside the safe walls of existing venues. Out of 9 Starbucks locations in Detroit only 2 are stand-alone shops. Biggby and Tim Hortons are often located inside other buildings as well although there are many more stand-alone Tim Hortons and Dunkin Donuts locations.

Since 2015, I’ve seen 6 coffee shops close, 2 or 3 changed ownership but remained in operation, and 20 new coffee spots open. The new grand total comes to 67 coffee shops within Detroit’s outer border. Only New Center and “Sherwood Forest” saw losses of coffee shops that were not filled by new ones. Interestingly, Midtown only gained one coffee shop while Downtown added 4 new coffee shops.


Map: Detroit Region Areas of Population Growth 1950 – 1961

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This map helps demonstrate the early loss of population from the City of Detroit into adjacent suburbs. From the “Report on Metropolitan Environmental Study: Sewerage and Drainage Problems” this map accompanied a report looking ahead to plan for 1970 needs. In large part the report found that the areas that had the greatest population growth also had the most inadequate systems for sewerage and drainage.

Map: Detroit Rental Value 1940

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This map is included in the Detroit City Plan Commission’s 1946 report titled: “The People of Detroit.”

In regards to rent, the report reads:

“The average monthly rent is a good index of the present economic level of given geographic areas in relation to others. In spite of distortions which may be introduced by a scarcity or abundance of homes, or transportation facilities of distance from work, it is a fair indication of family income. While the average contract or estimated monthly rent for the city was $35.88 at the time of the census in 1940, average rents by census tracts ranged from $18.00 per month in the tracts near the central business district to $120.00 per month in Palmer Woods.”


Map: Where is the Heart of Detroit?

The “heart of Detroit” is a common marketing shtick attempting to show the importance and purported hip-ness of a given location. Sometimes that location is a new development and other times it is a historic place marker.


Thanks to Aaron Foley’s 2012 Mlive article on this very topic and some more recent google searches, there is nice list of locations assumed to be the “heart of Detroit” and with wide geographic variation.

“My inner cartographer wants the “heart” of the city to be the Dexter/Davison/Linwood near Central High School, which is, uh, central to almost everywhere in the city.” – Aaron Foley


Heart of Detroit:

  • Midtown
  • Downtown
  • Capital Park
  • Barry Subdivision
  • Belle Isle
  • Central High School
  • W. Grand Blvd.
  • Linwood and Gladstone
  • Diack Park/Playground
  • New Center
  • Corktown
  • Brush Park
  • Woodbridge

Anyone can claim the “heart of Detroit,” but how can we determine the true “heart” or center? Mathematically we can calculate the geographic center of Detroit.


Media mentions are nice and the geographic center is helpful, but it is no mystery that Detroit is a very large area with random clusters of population. Using more math we can calculate the mean “center of population” for Detroit. It seems that Aaron Foley’s “inner cartographer” is spot on!


Map: Proposed Play Space in Gratiot-Mack Neighborhood Improvement Plan 1955

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This map is included in the “Summary progress report. Detroit Committee for Neighborhood Conservation and Improved Housing.” The broad goal of the Neighborhood Conservation Committee was a “blight-free” Detroit. The Gratiot-Mack area was the original pilot “neighborhood” where adding new greenspace was seen as a positive for neighborhood stability.

In the Google Maps snapshot below, you can see much of the proposed playgrounds and greenspaces actually did come to fruition, however blight prevention did not have a lasting, long-term effect in the 50 years following 1955.


Map: Rouge River Basin in Detroit


This beautifully designed map comes from none other than a meta-study of flooodplains and flood hazards in the 4 county Detroit region. It’s a very telling analysis when thinking about our current flooding and water drainage challenges.

The map needed a small edit in the legend, so an old school cut and paste method was utilized.

Map: East Riverfront 50-Year Plan 2017

These renderings from Spackman Mossop and Michaels demonstrate the decades-long vision for Detroit’s Riverfront that has arguably been planned since the 1970s. Detroit’s new Planning Director, Maurice Cox, is hoping to see a more vibrant, equitable, and accessible riverfront. Rock Ventures plans to work with GM subsidiary, Riverfront Holdings LLC to redevelop 10 acres of the East Riverfront from surface parking to mixed use.

Official Detroit Area Expressway Map 1959

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From “An illustrated guide to Dynamic Detroit” by Beatrice Putnam, this map of expressways doesn’t yet show I-75/I-375 or I-96. Only M-10 and I-94 were in existence, but you’ll notice that the Lodge had not yet been labeled M-10 and Woodward Avenue had not been given the M-1 distinction.

Map: Road and Aviation Noise Exposure in Detroit

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The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), I didn’t know it existed either, has released a new map tool showing areas where people are more likely to be exposed to road and aviation noise over a 24 hour period.

Not sure the modeling is quite right for Detroit City Airport? Do planes actually leave from there? If you live in Dearborn or West Detroit you’ll be exposed to a lot of airplane noise from Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Map: Detroit Green Thoroughfares

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As part of CDAD’s Neighborhood Revitalization Strategic Framework, Data Driven Detroit identified a series of green thoroughfares based on vacant lots and vacant businesses.
The green corridor segments have experienced a greater degree of disinvestment or have lower levels of activity. The green spectrum illustrates corridor segments that more closely align with the Green Thoroughfare typology. This analysis is limited to two criteria: the concentration of vacant lots and/or the business vacancy rate.

Map: Detroit Region Urbanization 1890 to 2010


I was fascinated by this map of urbanization in the Detroit region and attempted to track down the datasets behind the visualization. Little did I know that I would be in for a big surprise. I first reached out to Mark Jones at SEMCOG, who informed me via his colleague Jeff Nutting that there were no datasets and the map had been hand drawn and colored.

Later, Jeff Nutting (a 22 year veteran at SEMCOG) and I discussed the process for creating this beautiful visual. The urbanization data is derived from aerial photos of the region, which are taken every 5 years. Jeff said that they would print out a large map on thin paper, line up the aerial photos under the map, then hand draw polygons for various land uses.

The urbanization map was derived from a combination of several years of land use maps that were then hand colored. Urbanization maps of the 1980s and 1990s could be commonly found in agency reports. Jeff noted that it was unusual to create color maps at the time and most maps that were produced were simply boundaries in black and white. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that SEMCOG started using a large digitizing table and ESRI ArcInfo running on Unix workstations for mapping.