Report takes data-driven look at downtown Detroit

Posted on February 20, 2013

A report issued today takes a data-driven deep dive into downtown Detroit in terms of population, housing, business and employment.

The report, titled 7.2 SQ MI, was issued by the Hudson-Webber Foundation.

Katy Locker, vice president of programs at the Hudson-Webber Foundation, said it is the first time there has been centralized, reliable and agreed-upon data for downtown Detroit.

The 7.2 square miles that are the focus of the report make up a collection of neighborhoods, including downtown, Midtown, New Center, Woodbridge, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park, Rivertown and Corktown. For context, the downtown/central business district is approximately one square mile.

The Hudson-Webber Foundation partnered with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Invest Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corp., Midtown Detroit Inc., D:hive and Data Driven Detroit to research, share and combine key data across all parties.

Hudson-Webber carried the weight of the financial commitment to delivering the report, Locker said.

All of the partners in the study are Hudson-Webber grantees, Locker said, “So it made sense for us to carry the cost of the report.”

Creating a comprehensive baseline for measurement in the future was one of the main reasons behind the report.

“We know this is not a one-time thing,” Locker said.

Anybody who lives or works downtown can say anecdotally that five years ago there were less people on the road, but there was no data so show it, she said.

Going forward, Locker said the group wants to learn and figure out the best way to update, and communicate the report.

Locker said they anticipate updating the data and re-releasing the report every two to three years, according to the release.

The data were culled in various ways, including the most recent U.S. Census data and American Community Service data, as well as from partners in the report like Midtown Inc.

“Anybody who wonders where the data comes from can see the source of the data” in the report, Locker said.

To gather pedestrian and cyclist counts, members from D:hive actually stood out on corners with clickers to measure the counts as each walked by on an afternoon at popular intersections.

“So there’s totally new data,” Locker said.

An individual from Wayne State University’s two-year fellowship program for midcareer professional sseeking to contribute to Detroit’s revitalization started organizing the project in late 2011, Locker said. The majority of 2012 was spent putting the rest of the study together, she added.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Downtown Detroit is at nearly 80 percent commercial occupancy. The average asking lease rate is $19.41 per square foot.
  • Employment downtown as of March 2010 totaled 135,402 employees, which accounts for 40 percent of total employment in the city.
  • Rental occupancy in Midtown is at 97 percent, downtown is at 95 percent. Rent costs in Midtown ranged from $325-$2,500, and downtown ranged from $475-$5,100.
  • The total population of downtown is 36,550 people, for a density makeup of 5,076 people per square mile.
  • The average per capital income per person in downtown is $20,216.

To download a copy of the report, visit

Ryan Felton, Crain’s Detroit Business.