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Data Driven Detroit (D3) provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive decision-making that strengthens communities in Southeast Michigan.

Four Seasons of Data: Celebrating 15 Months of Motor City Mapping

By Diana Flora

Since October 2013, Data Driven Detroit (D3) has had the pleasure of collaborating on Motor City Mapping, a massive project that has included hundreds of people devoting thousands of hours to data collection, cleaning, and analysis. It’s the culmination of a process that involved federal, state, and local government officials, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations, and charitable foundations, a process that has, in ways both large and small, touched every corner of the city of Detroit.

winterAlong with our partners – the Michigan Nonprofit Association, LOVELAND Technologies, and Rock Ventures, LLC, among others – we accomplished a set of dizzying tasks. In the first few months of the project, we assembled a team of 200 resident surveyors, drivers, and quality-control associates; cataloged information for all 380,000 properties (during the snowiest winter in Detroit’s recorded history); and leveraged relationships to acquire more than 30 datasets, compiling the largest, most comprehensive property database ever for Detroit.

As spring bloomed in Detroit, we worked with the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force to use the power of our data to inform its report released in May 2014. You’ll recognize D3’s analytical work throughout the report, especially in Chapter 4: “How Does This Information Guide Us?” Focusing on two primary goals – improving quality of life for the greatest number of people and improving opportunities for reinvestment and stabilization in Detroit’s neighborhoods – we created the Maximizing Community Impact tool, which identifies “tipping point” neighborhoods. Tipping point neighborhoods are areas that would see the greatest impact from immediate intervention, be it demolition, rehabilitation, or economic intervention.spring

Since May, D3 and LOVELAND Technologies worked to make all of the data we collected in the winter available to the public. Together we launched the Motor City Mapping website in July, which displays survey data on use, condition, and occupancy for every parcel in the city. Helpful features also include neighborhood and geographic aggregations that allow the public to see survey results at a glance.

D3 also strengthened our Open Data Portal, where we uploaded essential datasets that we collected as part of the Motor City Mapping project. There you’ll find downloadable data not only for the Motor City Mapping survey, but also for many other datasets, including Likely Public Ownership, 2013-14 and Designated and Eligible Historic Districts and Structures, Winter 2013.

summer lot2The Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) serves as an incredible partner, using the Motor City Mapping data to make real strides toward blight elimination. Residents now have a clear way to provide feedback on how properties change, channeling that feedback directly into DLBA’s decision-making process.

Most importantly, Motor City Mapping allowed D3 to reach out to more people than ever before. Since August, we have conducted more than 40 trainings and workshops, speaking to about 1,000 residents in every corner of the city about the power of using data for decision-making. We have also expanded Motor City Mapping into Highland Park and Hamtramck, allowing those two cities to better understand the scope of blight within their boundaries and to successfully secure almost $6 million in federal funds for blight elimination.fall

Along with the Michigan Nonprofit Association, D3 has also administered a powerful Mini-Grant Program, which allocated small grants to 15 community organizations that hired neighbors to resurvey their community. Together they surveyed more than 76,000 parcels in a span of eight weeks.

As we find ourselves in the midst of winter again, I want to thank everyone involved in the project, whether you attended a workshop, helped to resurvey your community, or advocated for better, more accessible data (I’m looking at you, Mayor Duggan). We are so grateful to all our partners and for the generous support of The Kresge Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and Rock Ventures, LLC.

Diana Flora serves as the project manager for Motor City Mapping at D3. For more blog posts on Motor City Mapping, check out our City of Change series and our coverage of the successful close of the Mini-Grant Program.

Motor City Mapping Mini-Grants Come to a Successful Close


By Stephanie Edlinger


  • Data Driven Detroit
  • Michigan Nonprofit Association
  • LOVELAND Technologies
  • Rock Ventures, LLC
  • Detroit Blight Removal Task Force
  • The Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • The Kresge Foundation
  • The Skillman Foundation

Data Driven Detroit’s (D3) Mini-Grant Program came to a successful close on Friday, December 12, marking a major milestone for an ambitious community engagement plan that launched in July of 2014 as part of the Motor City Mapping (MCM) project. Mini-Grant recipients were tasked with organizing residents to resurvey their neighborhoods, asking questions related to property condition and occupancy. Funding for the initiative was made possible through the generous support of The Kresge Foundation and The Skillman Foundation.

More than 70 Detroit-based community organizations applied for the program, administered by D3 and our parent affiliate, the Michigan Nonprofit Association. Fifteen finalists received mini-grant funds ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, or approximately $1 per parcel surveyed. At the end of eight weeks, the fifteen groups had assembled over 260 community members to successfully survey over 76,000 parcels in Detroit.

Lessons from the Field

Mini-Grant Recipients

  • Chandler Park Neighbors and Partners Association
  • Eastside Community Network
  • East English Village
  • GenesisHOPE Community Development Corporation
  • Lipke Park Advisory Council
  • Mack Avenue Community Church (MACC) Development Association
  • College Core Block Club
  • Mohican Regent Homeowners Association
  • Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit
  • PW Community Development Nonprofit Housing Corporation
  • Urban Neighborhood Initiatives
  • University District Radio Patrol
  • Vanguard Community Development Corporation
  • Wayne State University’s AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program

This type of technologically innovative field work can be challenging; however, the overall consensus at the end of the grant period was positive and hopeful. The Chandler Park Neighbors and Partners Association, for example, said that the Mini-Grant Program “empowered [their] organization to look at data in a new way when it comes to neighborhood mobilization and engagement.”

Furthermore, almost all of the organizations were able to use the funds to purchase new technology such as smart phones, tablets and computers that they otherwise would not have been able to acquire. Some organizations, such as the Vanguard Community Development Corporation, indicated that the funds actually “enabled several residents to become more confident in utilizing technology.” Vanguard also called attention to the importance of advocacy in the development of technology that is intended to serve neighborhoods.

We are also pleased to report that many of the grantees also intend to leverage the training and experience gained from the program to refresh their community strategies. Some organizations that had already taken on the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining properties in their area now have a fresh pool of funding for tools and supplies for their volunteers, while other groups will look to use the data to enhance grant applications and better plan for the future of their neighborhood. Many of the participants now report increased block club attendance and neighborhood engagement due to conversations started with curious residents while surveyors were in the field.

The D3 Tools Awareness Workshop

Due in large part to the responsiveness and enthusiastic engagement of the mini-grant recipients, D3 hosted a Tools Awareness Workshop on December 17th. Building on lessons from our previous workshops, we designed the event specifically to engage local community organizations around our online warehouse of free, interactive, neighborhood level tools.

From the feedback collected at the workshop, it is clear that community groups have both a demand for easily-accessible, neighborhood-level data and a need for increased exposure to these types of tools. We hope to continue to host these workshops in the coming year to create a venue for residents to interact with D3 data experts and learn about how they can use data to help their community. If you would like to attend one of these workshops or host a workshop within your organization, please contact D3 to make arrangements at askD3@datadrivendetroit.org.

For more information on Motor City Mapping, see our post from last May or visit www.motorcitymapping.org.

City of Change: Toward a Neighborhood-Level Analysis

City of Change: Toward a Neighborhood-Level Analysis

Over the past several weeks, the City of Change series has looked at how Detroit’s residential neighborhoods have evolved over the past five years, identifying trends both sobering and hopeful.  We’ve revealed a mortgage market that continues to contract, pockets of neighborhoods that are increasing in density, and areas of improving and declining residential structure condition. Until this point, however, our analysis has largely been focused on citywide trends. While we’ve looked at some of Detroit’s Master Planning neighborhoods, our purpose was to identify areas that are either examples of a larger trend or to identify those that stand as outliers.

With the second portion of this series, we hope to focus the conversation more on that neighborhood level. Building on the analysis in the previous four installments, we will look at the changes over time in a number of targeted investment areas. As with the broader analysis of trends across the city, we’ll focus on previously identified data indicators pertaining to Detroit’s building conditions, its occupancy density, and its mortgage markets. This more granular focus will allow us to examine the differences in outcomes in these targeted communities in terms of attracting and retaining residents and market investment, both in comparison to other areas in the same program and the rest of the city as a whole.


Figure 1: Overlapping Investment Target Areas in the City of Detroit

Targeted Investment in Detroit’s Neighborhoods:  A Primer

As Detroit has struggled through population loss and general disinvestment over the past decade (and longer), a number of initiatives have focused investments on specific geographic areas in an effort to help increase the impact of the limited amount of money they have to spend. As shown in Figure 1, there appears to have been little coordination among many of these programs – so much so that a map reveals that fewer portions of the city are not targeted by one of the eight investment programs displayed than are.

Many of these initiatives have had different geographic scopes as well, though the overlapping areas in Figure 1 conceal the differences in their boundaries. Some programs have been enormous, sweeping across nearly half of Detroit’s land area. Others have focused on areas smaller than a square mile. The vast differences in scale among these various programs provide rich ground for comparing potential effects of more focused and more diffuse investment initiatives. And this is what the second portion of City of Change seeks to do.

It is important to note at the start that we are not looking to evaluate the impact of the efforts that we’ll look at in subsequent posts. The programs and policies that we’ll examine are enormously complex initiatives, and it diminishes them to attempt to evaluate their success through the lens of only three indicators. Some of these initiatives, for example, may measure success by the number of children they reach or the total number of structures demolished, instead of by increases in mortgage originations or occupied structures.

What we will do, however, is look at the differences in four sets of investment areas for the three indicators discussed in previous City of Change installments: housing condition, occupancy density, and mortgage markets. We’ll compare each area to other geographies targeted by the same program and to the city of Detroit as a whole to determine whether there have been differences in outcomes in these indicators. Some of the investment initiatives have been highly publicized, long-running efforts, while others may have fizzled out soon after implementation. As Figure 1 shows, many of the target geographies in the city overlap, but virtually no areas of investment have exactly the same boundaries. What they all have in common, though, is that they’ve been designated by some entity – whether the city of Detroit, outside foundations, or other entities – for program-related, geographically focused investment. In addition, all of the areas have been sites of investment activity in our 2009-14 study period.

We’ll seeking to answer a number of questions as we explore the changes over time in these various target areas. How do these areas compare to each other and the city of Detroit as a whole? Is change, whether positive or negative, more evident in program areas that have a tighter geographic focus? Do the data indicate that the areas identified effectively match the stated goals of each initiative? Are there differences in outcomes of different programs even in overlapping target areas, and if so, what do these differences tell us about different methodologies for geographically focusing investment?

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In the new year, we’ll resume the City of Change series by taking a look at the first of our study areas, the Skillman Foundation’s Good Neighborhoods. We’ll follow that installment with a look at the Local Initiatives Support Corp.’s (LISC) Building Sustainable Communities neighborhoods and then the first- and third-round investment areas of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). We’ll close this part of the series with a reflective examination of geographic investment initiatives, looking at the differential outcomes (if any) between the four programs in any areas of overlap.

Detroit Innovation Insights

Photo courtesy of Urban Innovation Exchange, December 2014.

Photo courtesy of Urban Innovation Exchange, December 2014.

Three years ago, D3 and Urban Innovation Exchange (UIX) set out to learn more about urban innovators and their impact projects in Detroit.  Since then, we’ve designed a powerful research model to document and map this ecosystem through primary data collection and network analysis.  Our research provides a picture of urban innovation in Detroit and offers important insights into innovators’ social attributes, perceptions of innovation, visions and plans, measures of success and impact, and the support systems and resources they access to start, scale, and sustain their projects.

As we close our third year, we’re excited to be sharing our most important data findings paired with UIX’s recommendations for building this movement in the 3-part, co-authored blog series Detroit Innovation Insights by D3′s Jessica McInchak and UIX’s Claire Nelson.  Access the series and start reading here!

Part 1 introduces the motivating forces that sparked our three-year research initiative; Part 2 explores the research methods we’ve used to track innovation and the data that inform each of our insights; and lastly, Part 3 shares how our findings are being used to generate new strategies for UIX and its allies to best support urban innovators and their work, in Detroit and beyond.

This blog series also follows the release of our fall presentation, found here.

City of Change: Dynamics and Impact Potential in Detroit’s Neighborhoods

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit (D3) blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban, at D3, and Gary Sands, professor emeritus of Urban Planning at Wayne State University.

**Note: This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s master plan neighborhoods.  If you would like to view a reference map of these neighborhoods to help orient yourself, please click here.


What is the Neighborhood Dynamics Index?

The attractiveness of a neighborhood for investment is a function of an enormously complex range of attributes. Households and policymakers seeking to invest may consider a neighborhood’s accessibility to jobs, shopping, and public services as well as the cost of these services in terms of the tax burden. They may also consider the number of other residents living in a neighborhood, seeking to invest in areas with high levels of density and/or vitality (or areas with larger lots and quieter streets).

In an effort to capture at least some of the complexity of the investment decision, D3 has created a Neighborhood Dynamics Index that seeks to identify areas where potential investments will have a high impact and also appear more attractive.

Though the index can include a variety of factors, depending on the purpose for which it is calculated, this version of the Dynamics Index contains three equally weighted factors, each of which has already been the subject of a previous City of Change blog post:

  1. Average Condition of Residential Structures
  2. Density of Occupied Residential Structures
  3. Density of Mortgage Deeds

[You can find definitions for these factors at the bottom of this post]


Figure 1: Neighborhood Dynamics Index, 2009

Once individual scores are calculated for each indicator, the three scores are averaged to create the Dynamics Index score. As in previous installments in this series, the data have been assembled and the index has been calculated for 840 Census block groups in the city of Detroit.

Neighborhood Dynamics Index Scores in 2009

Figure 1 presents the distribution of Dynamics Index scores in 2009, divided into four equally populated ranges. The areas in the top category (representing the highest relative impact potential), which generally have above-average scores on all three measures, are found primarily in Northwest Detroit, the Cody Rouge community and the far East Side. In much of the central portion of Detroit, only five block groups are in the top range: two in Southwest Detroit, one north of Hamtramck and two on the near West Side. The highest-category block groups are often adjacent to areas in the second-highest range. The result is a gradual transition in many areas, rather than an abrupt transition from higher to lower scores.

Neighborhood Dynamics Index Scores in 2014

The Dynamics Index scores for 2014 are fairly similar to the 2009 results (Figure 2). The number of block groups in the top category is just 10 fewer than five years earlier. However, the number of areas in the top category that are located west of M-39 (except the area north of Seven Mile) and east of Alter Road has noticeably decreased. In addition, traditionally stronger but lower-density neighborhoods such as Indian Village and Palmer Park have a much greater presence in the top two categories in 2014, compared to 2009. This change indicates a shifting balance away from Detroit’s denser, middle-income areas and toward the less-dense, but higher-income and still relatively stable communities. The area along Tireman, just north of Dearborn, also has more block groups in the top category. The number of block groups in the bottom range (the areas with the least relative impact potential) also decreased during this period, with corresponding increases in the middle two categories.


Figure 2: Neighborhood Dynamics Index, 2014


Changes in Neighborhood Dynamics Index Scores, 2009-2014

As indicated in Figure 3, increases in the Dynamics Index scores between 2009 and 2014 were widespread across the city. Many of the block groups with increases are located in areas that had low scores in 2009 – the near West Side, the Midtown area and much of the East Side – and, despite these absolute gains, many of these neighborhoods continue to be in the lower half of the relative distribution.  However, portions of Woodbridge and Midtown have surged into the top half of block groups, likely as a result of the highly organized redevelopment efforts taking place in those communities. Scores also improved in traditionally stable areas such as Palmer Park, Rosedale, and Indian Village.

Number of Block Groups
0.64 to 2.39 (Highest Index Score)210199-11
0.00 to 0.63210223+13
-0.64 to -0.01210229+19
-2.32 to -0.65 (Lowest Index Score)210189-21

Much of the decline in Dynamics Index Scores was concentrated in the still relatively stable neighborhoods of Cody and Rouge, near Dearborn, and Finney and Denby, on the far East Side. While these areas generally remained within the top two ranges of block groups, the decline in Dynamics Index scores relative to other portions of the city is concerning, and indicates that these neighborhoods may be in danger of tipping into a spiral of more consistent decline.


Figure 3: Changes in Neighborhood Dynamics Index Score, 2009-2014


The Neighborhood Dynamics Index is by no means intended as the sole tool to be used when making investment decisions. However, the in-depth analysis that it represents allows D3 to drill deeper into the data than would be possible by looking at each indicator in isolation. In addition, the Dynamics Index doesn’t only identify areas of high investment potential, it also allows us to track how Detroit’s neighborhoods have changed relative to each other, and, through its individual components, helps identify why these specific changes may have taken place.

Overall, the Dynamics Index results are somewhat more encouraging than the results for its individual components. Because the three components of the Dynamics Index change in different ways in different areas, there has been little change in the relative distribution of the block groups.  The tendency has been for block groups to move closer toward the middle (fewer in either the highest or lowest ranges) rather than experience the general downward shift that can be seen in the scores for each of the individual factors.

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Factors We Used in the Neighborhood Dynamics Index

Average Condition of Residential Structures. The physical condition of the residential structures in an area reflects how well the homes and apartment buildings have been maintained, regardless of the age of the housing stock. The presence of blight in a neighborhood is a sign of disinvestment, while well-maintained older homes reflect continued interest of residents in the neighborhood.

In recent years, two separate assessments have been made of the condition of housing in Detroit. In the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey, D3 rated the structural condition of all one- to four-unit residential properties on a four-point scale. The Motor City Mapping initiative undertook a similar survey of all residential (and commercial) structures in 2014.

Density of Occupied Residential Structures. Neighborhoods in which most of the residential structures have at least one unit occupied reflect continued market interest in that area. These areas also represent Detroit’s remaining areas of relatively dense population, where new investments and interventions have a stronger chance of affecting a large number of people.

The 2009 and 2014 structural condition surveys also provide information on the occupancy status of each structure. The measure created by D3 for incorporation into the Neighborhood Dynamics Index is the number of occupied structures per square mile.

Density of Mortgage Deeds. The number of mortgage deeds recorded in a specific neighborhood reflects positive regard by financial institutions. Though there are a number of different reasons why mortgage lending activity in a neighborhood might be low, the areas that enjoy higher levels of interest and support from financial institutions are often more attractive for investment.

The measure of mortgage density included in the Neighborhood Dynamics Index represents the number of mortgage deeds recorded per square mile. Each value is based on two years of data, for 2008-09 and 2012-13. The absolute number of mortgage recordings is very low across much of the city in each period. Areas with relatively high levels of mortgage activity are thus particularly noteworthy.

City of Change: Detroit’s Continuing Mortgage Crisis

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit (D3) blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban at D3 and Gary Sands, professor emeritus of urban planning at Wayne State University.

**Note: This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s master [Read on...]

City of Change – Occupancy Density in Detroit’s Residential Neighborhoods

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit (D3) blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban at D3 and Gary Sands, professor emeritus of urban planning at Wayne State University.

**Note: This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s [Read on...]

City of Change – Evolution in the Condition of Detroit’s Housing Stock

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban at D3 and Gary Sands, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at Wayne State University. This week, the series examines variation and change in Detroit’s residential structure [Read on...]

Introducing City of Change – A window into Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 to 2014

2009 2013

In 2009, Data Driven Detroit (D3) participated in the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS), collecting data on roughly 350,000 structures and vacant lots in the city of Detroit. The survey captured information on the physical condition of Detroit’s residential neighborhoods and empty lots. The DRPS provided a [Read on...]

National Network Spotlight

My favorite time of the season! Halloween? Sure, it’s fun, and I’m looking forward to Friday, but how much data can we squeeze out of that day? I’m just returning from my hands down favorite event in the fall – the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) meeting.

For those who haven’t heard me rave [Read on...]