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December 2014

Motor City Mapping Mini-Grants Come to a Successful Close

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

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

City of Change: Toward a Neighborhood-Level Analysis

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

Detroit Innovation Insights

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:  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 0.6321022313
-0.64 to -0.0121022919
-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.

*            *            *           *            *            *

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:  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 plan neighborhoods. If you would like to view a reference map of these neighborhoods to help orient yourself, please click here.


This edition of City of Change examines the density of mortgage deeds (the number of mortgage deeds per square mile), since mortgage activity is one of the strongest indicators of a neighborhood’s investment potential. Regardless of the purpose of the mortgage deed, the presence of mortgage activity can indicate a commitment by residents to remain in a neighborhood and can identify interest and confidence from other market actors as well.

For this analysis, mortgage activity is defined as any mortgage deed filed to a property, regardless of its purpose. These deeds may include new mortgages (indicating investment by new residents) as well as refinanced mortgages or second mortgages (indicating investment by current residents who plan to remain in their home). As with previous installments of City of Change, the data have been summarized for 840 Census block groups in the city of Detroit. The mortgage deed data are based on D3’s analysis of transactional data purchased from the Wayne County Register of Deeds and encompass two time periods: 2008-09 and 2012-13. To remain consistent with other installments of City of Change, this analysis excludes block groups with fewer than 10 residential structures surveyed in the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey.

It is important to note that recorded mortgage deeds are not the sole measure of neighborhood residential sales activity. Many of the sales transactions in Detroit are cash sales or land contracts, with no mortgage involved. According to American Community Survey data, only about 55 percent of owner-occupied housing units in Detroit have a mortgage. Nevertheless, mortgage lending continues to be a primary indicator of market strength and represents a reliable proxy for overall market interest in a neighborhood.

Mortgage Activity in 2008-09

In 2008-09, the median mortgage density was roughly 100 deeds per square mile; that is, in 2008-09 half of all Detroit block groups had a mortgage density greater than 100. For individual areas, the density ranged from zero (no mortgages in the two-year period) to more than 550 mortgages per square mile. Figure 1 shows the mortgage density for each block group, divided into four equal ranges.

Figure 1:


This map shows mortgage deeds per square mile in 2008-09, divided into four equal ranges. The areas with the greatest amount of activity are the Far East, Northwest, and Far West portions of Detroit.

Mortgage activity in this period was generally concentrated in block groups in northwest Detroit, the Cody Rouge area, and the far east side, in the Finney and Denby master planning neighborhoods. The density of mortgage activity for most of the East Side between Woodward and Detroit City Airport falls in the lowest range. The same is true on the West Side, around and south of the Tireman master planning neighborhood.

Mortgage Activity in 2012-13

Across the city of Detroit, mortgage densities were also substantially lower in 2012-13 than in 2008-09, as shown in Table 1. The top range of block groups, which included 210 areas in 2008-09, contained only 62 block groups in 2012-13, a decrease of more than 70 percent. The bottom range, meanwhile, contained nearly 100 percent more block groups than it had in 2008-09.

Table 1: Change in Mortgage Deeds per Square Mile, 2008-09 to 2012-13

 Number of Block Groups
Mortgage Deeds per Square Mile2008-092012-13Change
185 or Higher21062-148
99 to 184210150-60
46 to 982102166
45 or Fewer210412202

Figure 2 shows the geographic magnitude of these differences. Though certain areas of the Rosedale, Bagley, Palmer Park, and Finney master planning neighborhoods have remained in the top category, many others, including virtually all of Denby and Cody Rouge, are no longer in the top range.

Figure 2:


This map shows mortgage deeds per square mile in 2012-13, using the same ranges as 2008-09. The density of mortgage activity has contracted significantly in many areas across the city. Only a few areas – in particular, Indian Village and portions of Greater Downtown – clearly have greater mortgage density than in 2008-09.

Changes in Mortgages per Square Mile from 2008-09 to 2012-13

From 2008-09 to 2012-13, mortgage density declined in 685 block groups and remained the same in just 36. Only 119 block groups (14.2 percent) recorded an increase in mortgage deeds per square mile. As seen in Figure 3, these block groups are scattered across the city and include historic districts (Indian Village, Palmer Park, and Corktown) and middle-class neighborhoods (East Riverside and Rosedale). In the Corktown, Jeffries, and Lower Woodward master planning neighborhoods, the increase may be related to new residential construction activity. As seen in Figure 3, the block groups where there have been increases between the two-year periods in mortgage deeds per square mile include areas that recorded low mortgage densities in 2008-09 and those that were already active markets.

Meanwhile, the Finney/Denby and Cody Rouge master planning neighborhoods include many block groups that had high mortgage densities in 2008-09 but fell below the median by 2012-13. Several of the block groups west of Van Dyke (M-53) recorded substantial increases in mortgages per square mile but nevertheless remained in the bottom range.

Figure 3:


This map shows the change in mortgage deeds per square mile from 2008-09 to 2012-13. Increases have been limited mainly to the Greater Downtown area, the Woodward and Jefferson corridors, and the Rosedale Park neighborhood in Northwest Detroit.

It is important to recognize that this analysis is based on the ratio of mortgage recordings to geographic area during the two-year periods. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the number of recorded mortgages fell from 12,285 to 7,535, a decline of almost 39 percent. In 2012-13, there were only 52 block groups where more than 25 mortgages were recorded and just 10 where the number of new mortgages was greater than 50.

The median mortgage density has also declined substantially between the two-year periods. In 2012-13, it was just 46 mortgages per square mile, a decline of more than 50 percent from roughly 100 per square mile in 2008-09. In addition, while four block groups reported no mortgage activity in 2008-09, this number had swelled to 48 by 2012-13.


In summary, although 2008-09 was the beginning of the national mortgage crisis, Detroit’s experience then was much better than it was in 2012-13, when many other areas of the country had recovered.  The citywide average mortgage density in 2012-13 was about 72 per square mile, compared to a residential structure density of about 1,800 per square mile. Moderate levels of mortgage activity occur in only a handful of areas in Detroit, and areas with increasing interest in mortgage investment appear to be confined largely to the city’s core, its historic neighborhoods, and a few other block groups scattered throughout the city.

City of Change will return next week with a look at Data Driven Detroit’s Dynamics Index, which is designed to identify areas of highest potential investment within the city.