Renaissance in Action
For more than a century, Detroit attracted immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the population rose to a peak of more than 1.8 million residents as the city served as the industrial arsenal of democracy during World War II.
Then came the end of the War boom, followed later by the decline of the American automobile industry in the face of competition from Japan. To complicate matters more, in every decade since 1950, the population has dropped significantly as jobs and residents steadily left Detroit.
By the 2010 U.S. Census, there were barely more than 700,000 people living in the city, only 10% of them Caucasian. The number declined even further to 673,000 in 2016.
After Detroit reached rock bottom in 2013, when it became the largest city in the country to file for bankruptcy, the seeds of renewal were planted as some of the largest business leaders began investing heavily in downtown real estate.
Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce toots the area’s horn for developments beyond the automotive and defense industries to also attract fledgling, but vibrant information technology, healthcare and transportation logistics sectors.
The revival of the downtown with skyscrapers, a new arena, and a bustling hospitality sector is impressive, but beyond this newly revitalized city core, Detroit still wrestles with a persistent poverty problem.
According to U.S. Census’ American Community Survey estimates, median household income increased 5.9% in 2017 and an even more impressive 7.6% the previous year.
But the city’s poverty rate remained stubbornly high, at 34.5% in 2017, which was down from more than 40% five years before but essentially unchanged from 2016.
Civic leaders are actively involved in efforts to make the area a place where youth want to stay and build lives, including an ambitious college scholarship program for the underprivileged called Detroit Promise.
“The Detroit Riverfront, along with its sister rails-to-trails greenway, the Dequindre Cut, welcomes approximately three million visitors annually,” according to the Chamber.
The 11-county region includes Livingston County, which saw population growth by 6% over the past 10 years and is forecasted to grow another 3% over the next 10 years.”