Detroit (MI) Analysis

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Detroit - Issues & Challenges

Two key issues/challenges that are being tackled by leaders in Detroit, Michigan, are street closures for construction work and poverty.

Street Closures for Construction Work

1. Overview

  • A key issue/challenge that's being tackled by leaders in Detroit is street closures for construction work.
  • Officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation said that in 2020, Metro Detroit construction "could be even worse in 2020 than it was" in 2019, as many roads are slated to be repaired.
  • As a showing of the magnitude of this issue, Detroit's Department of Public Works announced in July 2019 that approximately 70 roads would be closing temporarily due to construction work, which could last "for weeks, months or longer."
  • Many, major roads in and around Detroit have closed for a period of time due to construction work. For example, on a single weekend in November 2019, there were several closures of freeways.
  • Factors that have led to the massive amount of construction work and thus street closures in Detroit are that there has been insufficient funding of road repair for a long time and poor maintenance of those roads. Statistics demonstrating the realities of those factors are that 70% of Detroit's "major roads are in poor or mediocre condition," 26% "are in mediocre condition," and 44% "are in poor condition."

2. Importance to the Community

  • Businesses have been adversely impacted by street closures and road construction work, as those factors dissuade drivers from going to certain restaurant locations. As a result, business owners worry that their companies could be jeopardized. For example, an employee at a restaurant located in the epicenter of a street closure explained that the sole way that customers can get to the restaurant is through backroads and stated the following: "How are you going to find the Fryn' Pan? I don't know."
  • Residents have been frustrated about road closures because drivers have taken detours through residential areas due to road closures and have been driving fast through those areas. This has caused residents to become concerned about safety and has made residential areas that are usually tranquil rather noisy.
  • Residents have experienced longer drives to work because they've had to take alternative routes due to road closures.
  • The swift repair of closed roads/roads under construction is important to the community in Detroit because the average motorist in Detroit incurs $2,544 in "additional vehicle operating costs as a result of rough roads, congestion-related delays and traffic crashes."

3. What's Being Done About It

  • The Detroit Department of Public Works announces street closures in advance, in order to at least inform people about what streets will be closed so they can plan in advance for such.
  • The long-term solution for Detroit's street closure issue is to fix the roads, so that fewer closures are necessary in the future. The Michigan legislature is working toward that goal in the form of providing more funding for road repairs.
  • A practical step that has been taken to address the street closure issue in and around Detroit is quickly resolving labor disputes involving road construction workers, such as the one between Operating Engineers 324 and the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.
  • During peak travel times, the Michian Department of Transportation has removed lane-closure barriers so that traffic can flow more freely. For example, on Labor Day Weekend 2019, the agency "remov[ed] lane restrictions on more than two-thirds of its road and bridge projects statewide to ease traffic delays for holiday travelers."

4. Stakeholders Involved

5. Question for City Leaders

  • How will the need to fix such a vast extent of roads in Detroit be balanced with the importance of limiting the amount of street closures for commuters in Detroit?


1. Overview

  • Poverty is a key issue/challenge being tackled by leaders in Detroit, Michigan.
  • Detroit's poverty rate is the fourth-highest "among [U.S.] cities with at least 65,000 residents" per U.S. Census Bureau data released in September 2019.
  • Detroit's poverty level in 2018 was 33.4%.
  • CityLab data from 2019 showed that approximately 50% of residents in Detroit "were living in areas where poverty has been compounding."

2. Importance to the Community

  • Poverty has resulted in vast levels of vacant houses in Detroit's neighborhood communities. For example, 16% of the houses in Detroit's 48238 zip code are vacant, which ranks among the highest levels in the U.S.
  • Poverty has resulted in the population in Detroit declining and thus more people are moving out of the city's communities.
  • Detroit's poor neighborhoods have dissuaded large retailers from moving in, which has adversely impacted residents in those communities who would benefit by saving money shopping at such stores, yet lack convenient access to them.

3. What's Being Done About It

  • The Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, has been working to "bring jobs into Detroit and train Detroiters to do them." The Mayor believes that those two steps are the ways to address Detroit's poverty challenge.
  • To achieve those two objectives, the Mayor of Detroit launched a program called Detroit At Work. As an example of the program's success, 15,705 people participated in the program between April and June 2018.
  • Billionaire Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) and Quicken Loans, has been a major, private investor working to help address Detroit's poverty challenge since 2011 by investing billions of dollars into the city. In Detroit's downtown area, "his companies and his affiliates now employ 17,000 people."
  • Dan Gilbert also helped address Detroit's poverty problem by relocated the headquarters of his company, Quicken Loans, to downtown Detroit. As a result, Quicken Loans became the "largest private employer" in Detroit and brought "tens of thousands of workers to the city's central core."
  • Education programs are also being offered for adults, so that they can get better-paying jobs, such as the one offered through Detroit Public Schools.

4. Stakeholders Involved

5. Question for City Leaders

  • What is being done to address and remedy the decline in the number of residents in Detroit who are holding jobs based in Detroit?

Research Strategy

We identified a key issue/challenge being tackled by leaders in Detroit (in addition to the already requested issue of road closures) by conducting broad press searches about such. Poverty was a recurring theme that appeared in those searches, which is why we included it. Media articles were the main source of the information we found about the topics we were looking for pertaining to each issue, including importance to the community, what's being done to address it, and stakeholders involved. Examples of media sources we consulted during our research included the Detroit Free Press, CBS News Detroit, and The Detroit News, among others.
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Detroit - Business Community

ProsperUS Detroit and Motor City Re-Store are small business initiatives in Detroit. Local merchant associations in Detroit include the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the Southwest Detroit Business Association. The University Economic Analysis Partnership is a partnership that the City of Detroit has with universities and Motor City Match is a partnership that the City of Detroit has with the business community.

Small Business Initiatives

1. ProsperUS Detroit

  • ProsperUS Detroit is an initiative to promote small businesses in Detroit.
  • The following is the description provided about the initiative: "ProsperUS Detroit, a program of Southwest Economic Solutions, is a place-based economic development initiative that builds and sustains neighborhood entrepreneurs and small businesses. Through entrepreneur training, business support services, and micro-lending, the program infuses neighborhoods in Detroit with services and capital that support local entrepreneurs, help stabilize neighborhood economies, and inspire the local community."

2. Motor City Re-Store

  • Motor City Re-Store is an initiative to promote small businesses in Detroit.
  • The initiative provides, on a quarterly basis, "up to $500,000 in competitive matching grants to improve storefronts and upgrade commercial corridors in Detroit’s neighborhoods."
  • The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation's (DEGC) Small Business Team manages the initiative, which "is available to entrepreneurs who are currently open and operating a commercial storefront in the city of Detroit, including their landlords."

Local Merchant Associations

Partnerships With Universities & the Business Community

1. University Economic Analysis Partnership

  • The City of Detroit has a major partnership with Michigan universities called the University Economic Analysis Partnership.
  • The partnership was announced by the City of Detroit on July 15, 2019, and will run for five years.
  • The universities involved in the partnership are Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan.
  • Through the partnership, the universities are helping the City of Detroit's "forecasting and economic analysis unit within the CFO’s budget office" with economic data pertaining specifically to Detroit.
  • The data compiled and analyzed through the partnership will help the City of Detroit "and community stakeholders to quantify local economic conditions and to plan, design, finance, and evaluate programs to improve economic opportunities for Detroiters."

2. Motor City Match

  • A major partnership that the City of Detroit has with the business community is Motor City Match.
  • The following is the description provided about the partnership: "Motor City Match connects new and expanding businesses with Detroit’s quality real estate opportunities, providing them with funding and tools to fuel the city’s entrepreneurial revolution."
  • Other entities involved in the partnership are the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
  • Motor City Match provides $500,000 in funding each quarter for Detroit businesses. To date, the partnership has served 1,344 businesses and a total of $7.5 million in grants have been awarded.

Lowest RFP Amount

  • We were able to find two RFPs that "[t]he City of Detroit is currently accepting proposals for."
  • Both of the aforementioned, open RFPs are "economic development opportunities" within Detroit's city limits.
  • Of the two, the lowest RFP amount is $360,000. That amount is for the property of 801 Virginia Park, which spans about three-fourths of an acre.
  • The second economic development RFP opportunity is currently available for $1,312,500. That amount is for the combined properties of 3136 Third Street, 3126 Third Street, 3154 Third Street, and 708 Charlotte Street, which together span about 0.86 of an acre.

Question for City Leaders

  • What has the recent success of startups in Detroit revealed about the reasons why the city can be a powerhouse destination for the startup community?

Research Strategy

We found small business initiatives in Detroit by conducting broad searches for such. Upon finding initiatives, we reviewed their websites to ensure that they directly pertained to small businesses. Similarly, we found local merchant associations in Detroit through general searches for such. To find major partnerships that the city has with the business community and universities, we looked for media articles about that topic through sources such as Crain's Detroit and DBusiness Magazine. Lastly, the information we found about RFP amounts was found by searching the City of Detroit's website. The two RFP amounts we provided above were the only ones we found in our searches. Though the city published other information about RFPs on its site, we didn't find further amount data other than the information we provided above.
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Detroit - Overview

Detroit has an estimated population of 672,662, the city's next elections will occur in 2021, and the city has an ID card program called Detroit ID. Neighborhoods that are burgeoning in Detroit include Corktown, Midtown, and Sherwood Forest.


  • The estimated, total population of the City of Detroit is 672,662.
  • The closest data point we could find to the population between the ages of 18 and 35 in the City of Detroit is that the Brookings Institute found "that the millennial population — ages 18-34 — grew 4.6 percent in metro Detroit from 2010 to 2015, bringing the number of millennials to 927,828, which represents 21.6 percent of the population."
  • Though the aforementioned values pertain to the Detroit metro area and not just the City of Detroit, we can reasonably assume that the 18-34 population in the city was similar to that of the metro area.
  • Accordingly, we can estimate that around 21.6% of the City of Detroit's population is comprised of individuals ages 18-34 (since that was the percentage in the Detroit metro area), which would yield a total population count for that age bracket in the city of 145,294 individuals (672,662 x 0.216 (representing 21.6%), rounded to the nearest whole number).

2020 Elections

  • Detroit's next city elections will occur in 2021, including for mayor. Accordingly, we didn't find any elections for officials in the City of Detroit in 2020.


1. Corktown

  • Corktown is a Detroit neighborhood that has a lot of independent retail stores and would likely have a lot of creative workers since it's regarded as one of Detroit's most-trendy neighborhoods.
  • Corktown has a lot of restaurants, breweries, and coffee spots.
  • The neighborhood, which is the oldest in Detroit, is popular among both older and young people.

2. Midtown

  • Midtown is a neighborhood in Detroit that has a lot of independent retail stores, as it "is flush with shopping and food options from new players and old favorites. "
  • The following is an excellent, comprehensive description we found about the character of the Midtown neighborhood: "Home to the majority of Detroit’s cultural gems, Wayne State University and a revitalized retail and restaurant district, Midtown has quickly grown into a stop for tourists and locals alike to grab a five-star meal before a show or spend the night bar-hopping between old dives and new patios."

3. Sherwood Forest

  • Sherwood Forest is an affluent neighborhood in Detroit.
  • There are a lot of "historic and stately houses" in Sherwood Forest and, as it's name implies, there are a lot of trees.
  • Sherwood Forest is located a little further outside of Detroit's city center compared to some other city neighborhoods.

City ID Card Program

  • Detroit has a city ID card program for residents called Detroit ID.
  • The program is available to all residents of Detroit, including people who are returning as citizens, immigrants, or homeless.
  • To receive a Detroit ID card, a person just needs to gather the requisite documents, schedule an appointment, and fill out the application.
  • One of the perks offered through the program is that card holders are eligible to "[r]eceive discounts at dozens of local businesses and cultural activities across Detroit."

Question for City Leaders

  • There's a lot of discussion out there about how to best attract young professionals to live in a city like Detroit. With that said, is there a plan for trying to retain young professionals as residents of Detroit for the long-term and, if so, what does that plan entail?

Research Strategy

We first looked for information about whether Detroit has a city ID card program, which we found through the city's website. Next, we sought to determine whether any elections for the City of Detroit are scheduled for 2020. We did so by finding when the next Detroit city council and mayoral elections are schedule for, both of which will occur in 2021. Thus, we determined that there are no elections for City of Detroit officials in 2020. We then looked for information about trendy/affluent neighborhoods in Detroit by searching for articles about popular neighborhoods in the city. Visit Detroit and Zumper were two sources that we cited to about those neighborhoods.

Lastly, we looked for Detroit's population data. We found that data for the city overall, but were unable to expressly find the population count of individuals ages 18-35 in the city. We looked for that specific data by using three research approaches. First, we checked population-count sources such as World Population Review, but the only data in those sources was for overall population and/or for age ranges that were not applicable to our research. Second, we checked the statistics source Statista, which publishes a lot of population data. The only population data we found for Detroit on Statista was for overall population and thus was not age specific. As a third strategy, we looked for any articles about the millennial population in Detroit because 18-35 is an age range within that generation and a lot of media articles are written about millennial populations in cities. Through those sources, the closest data we could find pertained to the millennial population in the Detroit metro area. Since that was the most-relevant data we found through all the above strategies, we used the percentage of millennials in the Detroit metro area to estimate the population count of individuals between the ages of 18-35 in the City of Detroit.

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From Part 01