Blog Archive

September 2012

New Book: Driving Detroit, George Galster

By Kurt Metzger, Director

Looking back at my fifteen years working at Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies,  I remember my colleagues’ love for the city and their work with its residents. One person stands above all others: George Galster.  George came back to his roots in Detroit in 1996, locating his family in Palmer Woods and joining the faculty at WSU.  George showed himself to be not only a great thinker and researcher, but also a terrific presenter and heck of a good guy.  I had the opportunity to work with him on a couple of projects and to accompany him to Copenhagen for a conference.  In my role as D3 Director, I have had the opportunity to hire a number of urban planning students from WSU, each of whom speaks of George in reverent terms.

Today I have the distinct honor of introducing his just published book – Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in Motown.  Since I have placed my order but not yet received my book, I felt ill-equipped to review it.  Even had I read it, my analysis would pale in comparison to George’s writing.  Therefore I went straight to the author and asked him for a couple of paragraphs.  Here they are:

Driving Detroit paints in non-technical words a comprehensive portrait of Greater Detroit, a place of intense international interest.  Many books have portrayed its various surfaces.  None have asked, “Why Detroit?  What makes it tick?”  The character of this place emerges in Driving Detroit from multiple layers of principles gleaned from urban planning, economics, sociology, political science, geography, history, and psychology.  But it is also partly a self portrait, wherein Detroiters paint their own stories through songs, poems, and oral histories.  This mix of scholarly disciplines and media of communication make the book distinctively insightful and accessible.  Driving Detroit is unique because it paints a portrait that not only helps the reader see but, more importantly, understand why Detroit’s social, cultural, political, institutional, commercial, and built landscape is the way it is.  The book is aimed at graduate and undergraduate courses in urban studies, geography, and planning, but also should be of interest to the general public, both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Driving Detroit’s organizing principle is that Greater Detroit can be understood as a dual dialectic, one between capital and labor, the other between blacks and whites, manifested on a featureless plain dominated by an oligopolistic industry producing a durable consumer good.  The book sets the context for these dialectics by describing the region’s geo-political environment and evolving economic and population patterns.  It then traces the historical struggles between employers and unions, blacks and whites.  It shows how the geography, local government structure, and sociological forces created a housing development system that has led to the abandonment of the city core.  Driving Detroit then draws upon psychological principles of human fulfillment to argue that the region’s automotive economic base and housing development system have frustrated the populations’ quest for “respect,” leading to the individual and collective adaptations that characterize the place.  Unfortunately, though understandable, these adaptations have proven collectively irrational, positioning the region in an uncompetitive, unsustainable position.

It won’t read like John Grisham or Danielle Steele, but the time for summer/beach reading is over, our children are headed back to school, and it wouldn’t hurt any of us to be challenged to think.   Let’s take advantage of being able to tap into George’s brain and see how we can work together to build a better Detroit for all.

Click here to order.

D3 Launches New Parcel-Level Data Tool for Sustainable Communities

D3 Launches New Parcel-Level Data Tool for Sustainable Communities

By Morgan Robinson, Analyst

Up-to-date property information is essential to revitalization efforts in Detroit’s neighborhoods. Data at the parcel level provides the most detailed and fine-grained picture of local conditions. To support Detroit LISC’s Building Sustainable Communities Initiative, Data Driven Detroit (D3) was pleased to create a tool that supported planning and development in the Grand/Woodward, Grandmont Rosedale, and Springwells Village neighborhoods. An interactive map combined multiple public data sources in one interface, greatly reducing the time needed to research parcel-level information.

Additionally we included features that allowed users to interactively visualize parcel conditions by theme for the area of their choice. Users could also view and print parcel reports that included information about tax status, ownership, structure details, vacancy, neighborhood amenities, and more.

Below is a further Q and A discussion that highlighted many of this tools features:

Q. How do I see all vacant lots at a glance?

A. Select your neighborhood, then click on the Map Options tab, then select the Vacancy theme. Vacant lots are colored green; parcels with vacant residential building are hot pink.

Q. What are housing conditions like in this neighborhood?

A.  Select your neighborhood, then click on the Map Options tab, then select the Condition theme. Housing conditions are color-coded according to the legend.

Q. I’m considering acquiring a particular parcel to start a business. How can I tell if it fits my needs?

A. Once you’ve selected a neighborhood, click on the parcel of interest. Use the accordion tabs to browse through Administrative, Building, and Neighborhood information, such as zoning, square footage, and ownership. To get a “fact-sheet” with all information on  one page, click on Printer-Friendly Parcel Report.

This parcel tool is funded by the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation.

Are there any neighborhood schools left in Detroit?

Are there any neighborhood schools left in Detroit?

by Kelly Goodman, Education Analyst

Another school year is starting, and students across metro Detroit are beginning their commutes to school. Many Detroit students travel long distances to attend school.  Some even travel into the city from the suburbs; during the 2011-2012 school year, there were over 1,300 such Detroit Public School students. To better understand this student dispersion, Data Driven Detroit (D3) has published over one thousand new maps.

Detroit Public Schools shared data on where all their 2011-2012 students live and go to school. D3 mapped the data to tell three kinds of stories:

  • where students who live in a given community go to school
  • where students live who attend a given school
  • where students live who attend all schools in a given community

Below are a few examples of how Detroit groups have used this student dispersion data.  You can use these maps to explore topics like whether schools primarily serve students who live near the school. After exploring the data, let D3 know what questions the student dispersion tool helps you answer.

Students Attending School

Q: Excellent Schools Detroit was curious if students at the closing Southwestern High School would be close to their newly-assigned schools.

To answer this question: choose the “By School” option from the drop-down menu, then click on the marker for Southwestern High School.

A: For the most part, large concentrations of Southwestern students live nearby Northwestern and Western.  However, those students living downriver (in the “dog-leg”) face a longer commute to school.

Q: The Woodward Corridor Initiative (WCI) wanted to know if students attending schools in New Center, North End, and Midtown might need transportation assistance.

To answer this question: choose the “Woodward Corridor Initiative” option from the drop-down menu, then click on Midtown. Choose an option under the “Residences of Students Who Attend DPS Schools in This Area” heading.

A: Younger students (pre-kindergarten through eighth grade) live in or close to the WCI area while high school students live throughout the city.

Students Living in Neighborhoods

Q: Black Family Development Inc. needs to know where students who live in its Promise Neighborhoods go to school.

To answer this question: Choose the “By Tract” option. Click on tract 5035 in Northeast Detroit (by Von Steuben) and tract 5233 in Southwest Detroit (by Clark Park).

A: A large number of students from tract 5035 attend schools in the neighborhood, while dozens of students attend school throughout Northeast Detroit.  Students from tract 5233 are tightly clustered in neighborhood schools, but a handful attend schools north of Michigan Avenue.

Q: The Brightmoor Pastors Alliance is considering a campaign to increase school attendance rates. It wants to know if it can reach Brightmoor students by focusing on schools in Brightmoor.

To answer this question: Choose the “Skillman Good Neighborhoods” option, then click on Brightmoor. Choose an option under the “Where Students Living in This Area Attend DPS Schools” heading.

A: Younger students who live in Brightmoor attend schools throughout Northwest Detroit; there are six elementary schools outside of Brightmoor with large concentrations of Brightmoor students.  Since there are no DPS high schools in Brightmoor, high schoolers are spread across the city.