The Detroit Corridor Initiative (DCI) works to accelerate economic opportunity through strategic cross-sector partnerships that create quality mixed-income districts and job growth in Detroit. In 2015, DCI explored 2000-20131 trends to develop a set of economic development policies aimed at achieving inclusive growth. DCI deems growth strategies as inclusive when they improve quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood while preserving access and affordability for current and future residents. DCI’s measures for inclusive growth include increasing density and working towards healthy income mix profiles at the neighborhood scale.
Priority Objective: Determine how Detroit’s economic development partners can concentrate investment and development strategies to best increase density and achieve healthy mixed-income neighborhoods, thereby improving opportunity and economic mobility for residents.
Questions: This report considers the following key questions regarding recent trends and potential long-term investment scenarios in Detroit’s mixed-use corridors in order to address the priority objective:
- Are any of Detroit’s corridor areas achieving inclusive growth based on measures of jobs, density, and income mix?
- Where is population increasing in Detroit’s corridor areas?
- As population is changing, how is income mix changing?
- What does the Detroit Future City (DFC) strategic framework recommend for development potential in Detroit’s corridor areas?
- What income mix targets are achievable and equitable in stabilization and revitalization efforts in Detroit’s corridor areas? What does this mean in the context of a very high-poverty city?
Assumptions: Our focus is on mixed-use corridors, density and income mix because these are neighborhood characteristics that can have a positive effect on resident opportunity. And, more importantly, these neighborhood characteristics can be meaningfully addressed through strategic partnerships, community development, planning, and real estate development.
Figure 2 Methodology
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Why does density matter?
A combination of good planning, good design, and higher densities can support healthy, interactive, walkable areas with concentrations of services and amenities that can support households across the income spectrum. For instance, as density increases, so does transit ridership, particularly once the density of residents and employees combined surpasses 30 people per acre.2 Residential densities past 15 housing units per acre encourage people to walk more.3 And generally, higher densities of people support the development of services like retail, facilities like health care, and schools.
The highest housing density by corridor area is 5.8 occupied housing units in East Riverfront/Elmwood Park. Midtown is the second most dense area with an estimated 5.1 occupied housing units per acre.
Why does income mix matter?
Measures of household and per capita income can be telling indicators of a neighborhood’s wellbeing and overall trajectory. Median household income is a common measure; other measures include ratios of aggregate income by quartile or quintile, or measures of evenness and diversity across income categories. While there are limitations to what we can extrapolate about neighborhood health from this income data, evenness across proportions of lower-, middle-, and higher-income households is generally thought to affect neighborhoods positively. Some research suggests that the healthiest neighborhoods avoid high concentrations of extremes (wealth or poverty) and that lower-income populations generally benefit more from proximity to middle-income households than high-income households.
More specifically, research has shown that when 10 percent or more of households are below the poverty level, housing markets can begin to devalue; when 20 percent or more of households are below the poverty level, (i.e., a Census-defined “poverty area” or a Brookings-defined “high-poverty neighborhood”) there can be negative impacts such as school leaving (e.g. drop-outs and truancy issues) and crime; and when 40 percent or more of households are below the poverty level, the Census defines that area as a “Category IV” (highest) area of concentrated poverty, and Brookings defines it as a “distressed neighborhood.”
Figure 3 Income Mix, 2013
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For the purposes of this report, “corridor area” describes one or more census tracts adjacent to mixed-use and traditional commercial nodes and corridors as identified in the 2013 Detroit Future City Strategic Framework. We highlight the Midtown, University of Detroit Mercy/Marygrove, Corktown and Grand River/Southfield (a set of Census tracts that overlaps with a portion of the five neighborhoods in the Grandmont-Rosedale area) because they are either where the DCI currently focuses its efforts or areas of relative strength. These four areas are poised for investment due to their respective proximity to downtown, strong housing stock, low residential vacancy, strong commercial centers, or other neighborhood assets. In total, DCI analyzed 25 corridor areas across the city. These areas represent a wide range of neighborhood types, assets, demographics, and built environments.
High job concentrations in Midtown and the Central Business District put the combined density of residents and employees there well above 30 people per acre; the same density measure in all other corridor areas falls below 19 people per acre.