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

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 snapshot of Detroit’s urban fabric that has formed the backbone of policy efforts across Detroit, ranging from the high-profile Detroit Future City project to neighborhood-oriented mortgage market studies and local community agriculture endeavors.

Eventually, passage of time rendered the DRPS dataset less representative of current conditions in the city and thus less useful for decision-makers.  In the winter of 2013, the Motor City Mapping project once again undertook the collection of parcel-level data in Detroit.  On this project, D3 worked with multiple partners, including the Michigan Nonprofit Association, LOVELAND Technologies, and Rock Ventures, to survey every property in the city, regardless of use.  Using teams of resident surveyors and volunteer drivers, Motor City Mapping covered nearly 380,000 parcels in only six weeks of field work, providing information on structural condition and occupancy.  Many of the definitions used in Motor City Mapping were adopted from the DRPS.  In addition, D3 incorporated more than twenty other datasets into Motor City Mapping, creating the most comprehensive property database ever for Detroit.

The Motor City Mapping project provides a new benchmark dataset for policymakers and analysts.  With Motor City Mapping and DRPS combined, it is now possible to compare data across time with an unprecedented level of granularity, illuminating how Detroit’s neighborhoods have changed from 2009 to 2014.  The observed changes, based on two data points just five years apart, illustrate a small slice of a constantly-evolving environment.

City of Change is a new weekly D3 blog series dedicated to using these newly available data to explore how Detroit has changed over the past five years.  We assembled indicators that tell the city’s story from a number of different perspectives.  We then mapped these indicators at the census block group level, comparing 840 separate geographies between 2009 and 2014.  The insights offered by these comparisons are striking, frequently shocking, and occasionally hopeful.  They reinforce some of the trends that have been well-documented over the past five years, and shed new light on others.  They paint a picture of both tremendous decline and overwhelming potential.  They highlight neighborhoods that have faced tremendous stresses over the past five years, as well as areas that have endured the city’s continued crises, and even some areas where nascent turnarounds may be starting to become more entrenched.

This series is organized around two main themes.  The first part of the series will evaluate the various changes that have taken place over the preceding half-decade at a city-wide level, examining trends in Detroit’s population, housing, and markets.  The second half of the series will examine several high-profile, geographically-concentrated investment initiatives, with a particular focus on the changes within these various areas compared to the rest of the city over this five-year period.

Next week, we’ll take a deeper dive into Detroit’s structural climate – where buildings in the best condition in 2009 were located, which areas appear to have improved given the updated data from Motor City Mapping, and which areas appear to be facing the greatest threat from declining structural condition.

For more information about the Motor City Mapping project, please visit  You can download the full, parcel-level survey results from D3’s Open Data Portal,  We’ll be posting many additional datasets from the Motor City Mapping comprehensive property database, so be sure to check the Open Data Portal regularly in the coming weeks!