Map: Detroit State Fairgrounds Concept vs. Reality

These images stood out to me as stark contrasts from where a community vision wants to see development go compared to what the powers that be are capable of imagining.

The State Fairgrounds Development Coalition (SFDC) has a vibrant plan of mixed commerical/residential, a burgeoning alternative energy and tech center that connects to a high school and middle school, an extensive green park, all of which surround a new space to hold conventions and gatherings.

The currently proposed plan with City government, besides its immediate drab color choices and appearance, doesn’t show much beyond a warehouse and parking lot with a few pockets of undefined development. The primary draw is a new transit center that is quite limited and imagines no future multi-modal connections with nearby rail.

Map: Southwest Detroit Truck Route Study 2019

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The City of Detroit DPW with Giffels-Webster has embarked on assessing truck routes, specifically within Southwest Detroit where truck traffic is heaviest due to transportation hubs and the current international bridge.

Find other study updates from DPW here:

Map: Detroit Ballot Box Locations 2020

UPDATE 09/25/20: Using CARES Act funds, Wayne County and the City of Detroit added 30 additional ballot drop boxes in Detroit. There are now 32 total ballot drop boxes.

VOTE! Find your Ballot Drop Box location. Voters must use the ballot box in their specific jurisdiction. Detroit had only two until the City and State worked to add sites.

View the dashboard for additional sorting HERE

Map: Detroit Basement Flooding Mitigation 1947

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This map from the Reuther Library and Archives shows a contracted program by the Public Works Department with the goal of mitigating basement flooding by updating sewer systems in 1947.

I hope the effort worked in 1947 because the city hasn’t seen such a large investment in infrastructure since as evidenced by the recent and regular flooding.

Map: Detroit Immunization Rates in 2018

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Overall immunization rates at schools help reduce the spread of diseases that can be deadly, including measles, polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough, diptheria, and HPV. Everyone needs vaccines in order to protect family and community health. Vaccines don’t just protect children, but also those who are elderly and immune-compromised, newborns, and teenagers.

Check out rates across Detroit and at specific schools. Interactive version here.

Map: Population Change in the Detroit Region 1960-1968

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The University of Michigan at Dearborn used to have a Center for Urban Studies that completed some of the largest and most comprehensive Transportation and Land Use Study (TALUS). As part of that study their research team tracked population change and modeled population growth to the year 2000.

Map: Open Streets Detroit 2020


In 2017, the City of Detroit and partners were funded by the Knight Foundation to test out the “Open Streets” campaign in Detroit. The effort resulted in a well-branded annual event that took over a 4 mile stretch along Michigan Avenue from Campus Martius and taking Vernor Hwy to Livernois on Saturday mornings (I don’t count the event in Rouge Park).

Cities across the world are now rethinking roadways, how to manage increased bicycle traffic, and ways to making walking and dining safer by permitting more space for those activities than for cars. Great ideas! However, Detroit is still a bit slow on the adoption of more people-centered street configurations. Sure most of the city could be argued as “open streets” due to low population densities and minimal car traffic, but that doesn’t show any commitment by local government to serve the needs of people.

Through its “Detroit Means Business” COVID-19 strategy the City solicited application for expanded dining patios and potential areas for “open streets” (in some cases alleys). They should have just used Aaron Mondry’s crowd-sourced list from Curbed Detroit – some match perfectly. Various festivals in Detroit regularly close certain streets as well that could exist as continuous pedestrian routes as well, somewhat like Pallister Street in New Center. My two pitches are for Cass Avenue to be bus and bike only and for Second Avenue to exist as a car-free greenway from Downtown to New Center.

“Open Streets” to date have been strategically timed and contained. The map shows that these tend to be in a very small area of the city associated with the 7.2 square mile “Greater Downtown,” but there are numerous examples where this kind of planning could benefit neighborhoods outside of Downtown. An “open street” for every neighborhood!

Shout out to Transit Guide: Detroit (Dave Gifford), Detroit Traffic Management and Control, and Erika Linenfelser for sharing information not found on any city website.

Map: Health Care Professionals in Detroit 1972

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In his 1974 dissertation at Michigan State University, Deirn John Geard was examining poverty in the city. Part of his work included exploring health care professionals in subcommunities across the city. He was able to pull the data from the phone book in order to count available MD, DO, and Dentists.


Map: Particle Suspension Concentrations in Detroit 1974 – 1981

This map was included in the 1982 environmental impact statement for the Near East Riverfront, which I believe was in part only just redeveloped as “Orleans Landing.”

The map stood out to me not only for the dispersion of particulate matter over the years showing reductions over time, but also because the source was the Wayne County Health Department’s Air Pollution Control Division. The Air Pollution Control Division no longer exists.

Map: Chain Supermarkets in Metro Detroit 2020

I’ve mapped the empty business rings of Detroit before, but my personal interest and research is in food access. While chain supermarkets are not the shining beacon of hope, they are the preferred food shopping location for the majority of Detroit residents even with almost 70 independent local grocers.

Kroger and Walmart are the leading locations to buy groceries by Detroiters, but none are located within the city limits. The Walmart bus shuttles seniors from every corner of the city on a weekly basis.

I was interviewed for this CNN piece on the topic. Read more: How the rise of supermarkets left out black America

Map: Detroit Population Density 1990

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People per square mile in 1990 looked quite different than today. The city population was still over one million people and dense clusters of people are now where high rates of vacancy highlight. Current population density has continued to move further to the edges of the city border to the East and Northwest.

Map: Detroit Protests 2020


Over the last 14 days, protestors in Detroit have marched a collective 74 miles through Corktown, Southwest, Downtown, Midtown, Virginia Park, New Center, Islandview, and deep into the Eastside.

Protestors are demanding justice for George Floyd and the numerous other Black Americans who have died or faced brutality at the hands of police. The structural violence of expanded video surveillance, rampant foreclosures, unfettered evictions, and broad disinvestment in Black neighborhoods has also been a focal point of protestors demands delivered to the Mayor.

In the early days, marches were met with an intense and often brutal police response with full riot gear and tear gas. Clashes have been driven by police responding to the defined curfew which led to mass arrests until the Police Chief declared he would no longer enforce the curfew. Marches following this declaration saw no clashes and always ended peacefully. Marches have pulled on Detroit’s long history of police brutality which served as the spark for the 1967 rebellion.

A regular group has been convened at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters (DPSH) each day at 4pm ranging from 100 to 1,000 people. There have been other marches organized like one along the Dequindre Cut, DPSCD’s march from King High School to Spirit Plaza, and more recently a shutdown of both sides of 8 Mile Road.


Map: Detroit Mow Zones 2020

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There is a lot of weird history with the mowing of vacant lots in Detroit from private volunteer groups tackling the effort to local gardens getting mowed over and finally an entirely new department formed to deal with it – General Services Division, which now controls the Parks Department and more recently the Recreation Department.

If you have a garden and are concerned about it being mowed over the website guidance notes:

“In cases where block clubs, homeowners, or community organizations maintain gardens or generally maintain the lot themselves, please place a 3-4’ wooden stake on the front of the property. The wooden stake should be painted hot pink at the top or have a secured hot pink ribbon tied on it.

If vacant lots are not clearly marked crews may cut the lot.”

Map: Detroit’s Pizza Place Geography


This map idea has been sitting in the back of my head ever since Nathan Yau of FlowingData analyzed the pizza place geography of the United States. The map is based on which pizza place is nearest to particular areas of the city broken down into a grid (microhoods actually – shout out to Motor City Mapping project).

Numerous recent news reports highlight the hoarding of frozen pizza, the rallying of pizza chain stock prices, and the overall growth of pizza chains during the coronavirus pandemic. Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s all reported plans to hire more workers to meet the demand. Where might those people be in Detroit?


Detroit is home to the headquarters or birthplace of multiple pizza chains including: Little Caesar’s (HQ, founded in Garden City), Buddy’s (claim to the “Detroit-style”), Happy’s (founded 1994), and the specialty pizza spots only found in Detroit including Eastern Market staple Supino’s (temporarily closed), Belle Isle Pizza, Amicci’s, Sicily’s, or Pie Sci (my newest favorite). Over half the pizza industry is independent and Detroit has its fair share of unique pizza places including Halal Pizza near the Dearborn border and local chain Pizza Papalis of Greektown.


When it comes to pizza, Detroit has you covered. You might not find your favorite national chain everywhere, but there’s always a unique pizza option close-by.

EDIT: I think my data is actually bad. The two Pizza Hut locations in Detroit have actually been closed for a while.

Map: Detroit Population Change 1990 to 2000

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Sometimes we forget recent history, this is a throwback Census map form the WSU Center for Urban Studies.

The city’s now notorious 25% population loss from 2000 to 2010 is most often mentioned in news articles, but you can see the widespread population declines across the majority of the city in the preceding decade from 1990 to 2000.

Map: Metro Detroit COVID-19 Case Prevalence by ZIP Code


Note: All data as of 05/14/20

While some areas are seeing new cases slow down, Michigan cases continue to increase. In Southeast Michigan many hotspots have cooled, but Detroit continues to have a heightened burden of cases and deaths in the region.

Expanded testing is coming from  health systems, Wayne State University, MDHHS, and local governments.

Map: Detroit’s Altered Grocery Landscape 2020

DFM-covid-grocery-050820Food isn’t the same in Detroit anymore. All independent grocers have reduced their operating hours – many have reduced staff as workers stopped showing up for fear of exposure. Restaurants are becoming small grocers, “groceries” are distributed in drive-thru lines, and emergency food providers have become a lifeline as unemployment has skyrocketed.

Retailers are now mandated to limit the number of people inside their stores, require all employees (and customers) wear masks, and offer special hours to vulnerable populations.

As part of the Detroit Grocery Coalition, convened by the Detroit Food Policy Council, I’ve been tracking changes along with colleagues at the City of Detroit. Independent grocers are holding steady in the neighborhoods although at reduced staffING, hours, and sometimes supply chain – but the landscape of support during COVID-19 shows specific food access opportunity patterns across Detroit.