Downtown, Midtown Growing, But the Market’s ‘Not Yet Driving Itself’

The new “7.2” report shows growth, challenges in central Detroit … and more outdoor restaurants

Compared to the rest of the city, the centralized 7.2 square miles of Detroit have a greater density of people who are more diverse than the rest of the city. The area – downtown, Midtown, Rivertown, Eastern Market, Corktown, Woodbridge and Lafayette Park – attracts nearly 12 million people annually to events, museums, sports, concerts and other cultural institutions.

A new report analyzes some of the 7.2’s demographics, investments and other information, and WDET’s Sandra Svoboda hosted a segment on Detroit Today and a conversation about the neighborhoods. She’s joined by Dave Egner, president of the Hudson-Webber Foundation, one of the report’s supporters, Keegan Mahoney, a Hudson-Webber program officer who worked on the report, and Bridge Magazine Writer Nancy Derringer who has written extensively about the area.

You can find the full report here.

Some key points of the Detroit Today conversation:

  • The good news” $9 billion of new investment since 2006. “On the good news side,” Egner says. “We’ve seen $9 billion of new investment since 2006. That’s in development investment. Not so bad, 16,000 new private sectors jobs in the last four years greater downtown, rental occupancy rates between 98-99 percent rental occupancy rates. These are all terrific drivers toward what is a flourishing downtown.”
  • The market is not yet driving itself. “But the flip side of that coin: we’re not as far along as some may think,” Egner says. “What we’re finding is that we have not moved in a direction strong enough yet where the market is driving itself. Subsidies are still needed, median household income is still under $21,000, average rent still about $50. So there’s a long way to go in greater downtown.”
  • $1.2 billion is currently in construction with another almost $3 billion planned. “In the report, we break down the timing of that, what has been completed over the last two years, what’s currently under construction and what’s currently in the pipeline,”  says Mahoney.
  • A mix of renovation and new construction. “There are a lot buildings that are still there and need a lot of attention. There are opportunities there to bring those great fabulous building back onto the market,” Mahoney says.
  • Despite its focus on the central city, the report has applicability to the rest of the city. “What can we learn from what’s happening in the 7.2 as it compares to the rest of the city? You’ve got to have a market return for the city to thrive, and the market’s return to downtown. We’ve got to work on creating market demand in some of our neighborhoods as well. We’re starting to see micromarkets go up. West Village is a great example,” Egner says. “Forty percent of the city’s jobs are in the 72 square miles. If we allow this to become and island rather than a bridge, that connects to the other parts of the city. We would have missed an opportunity to be different than the other Midwest cities coming back.

Listen to the audio link above to hear the whole conversation.



  • Sandra Svoboda
    Recovering Bankruptcy Reporter/Blogger looking forward to chronicling regional revitalization on-air, digitally and through community engagement.