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Kresge unveils the 2018 Detroit Reinvestment Index

American Cities, Detroit

The 2018 Detroit Reinvestment Index – now in its third year – measures perceptions of Detroit and the city’s turnaround. In prior years, this research featured perceptions of National Business Leaders and Detroit Metro-Area Entrepreneurs. This year’s survey expands to include the views of Metro-Area Consumers about commercial corridors and retail in Detroit as well as these investments’ role in community revitalization and development.

When the Detroit Recovery Index began in 2016, 84 percent of surveyed national business leaders indicated they believed Detroit could not only recover successfully, but also become a great American city again. That confidence has further solidified over time. In the past year alone, there was an almost 10 percentage point increase in national business leader respondents feeling “very confident” in Detroit’s ability to recover.

This perception of Detroit’s ability to recover only strengthens among people more familiar with the city. This year’s dataset finds a notable uptick among suburban respondents (88 percent) and Detroit residents (94 percent).

“Consistently, we have heard from national and local audiences that there is confidence in Detroit’s ability to make progress, with Detroit residents – arguably the most discerning and in touch with the realities of the city – being the most bullish about the city’s future growth potential,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. 

Growth of small business and retail activity is helping drive this increase in confidence of the city’s rebound. Detroit entrepreneurs overwhelmingly recommend operating a business in the city, this year’s dataset concludes. Furthermore, Detroit residents currently see the city as a better place to be a consumer than 10 years ago, with almost 80 percent indicating as such.

One pivotal conclusion contained in this year’s data is that Detroit residents believe local small businesses and strong retail offerings are essential to neighborhood revitalization. The Detroit entrepreneur community sees this connection as well, with 93 percent of respondents indicating that small businesses have been at the core of Detroit’s revitalization.

Almost all (93 percent) Detroit resident survey respondents indicated that the investment in and improvement of retail districts should be prioritized to ensure a successful renaissance and recovery for the city of Detroit. At a more local level, respondents indicated that neighborhood revitalization should be Detroit’s top investment priority, to ensure continued growth and increased well-being

Local residents are excited about the visible progress achieved downtown, and they are starting to see small examples of this happening in neighborhoods across the city, creating both a sense of hopefulness for what comes next along with a desire for those efforts to accelerate and disseminate further.

“Current commercial corridor funding approaches appear to be bearing fruit, as resident feedback on revitalization efforts to-date has been positive, coupled with an eagerness for increased and accelerated investment moving forward,” Rapson noted.

Detroiters believe additional commercial corridor investment will help alleviate two key concerns they have about their current retail experience in the city: safety and security, and proximity of quality retail.

Despite improvements in retail offerings in the city, Detroit consumers indicated ongoing frustrations with the lack of easy access to quality retail options and basic goods. About a quarter (27 percent) of city residents indicated that, collectively, the retail options in Detroit do not meet the needs of its residents.

To combat this challenge, Detroiters see commercial corridor investment as a powerful tool. Specifically, based on the survey, residents are looking for quality retail establishments that allow them to:

  • Have increased access to high-quality goods and services (62 percent of Detroiters indicated a desire for department stores within the city).
  • Meet their basic needs (58 percent desired more big-box retailers; 47 percent grocery stores/supermarkets).
  • Connect with their friends, family and community members (47 percent desired more sit-down restaurants).

Across audiences – both national and local – perceptions of Detroit’s ability to recover are strong. While opportunities for increased neighborhood investment remain, collaborative work is being done across sectors to accelerate neighborhood efforts. Detroit-area residents and entrepreneurs expressed optimism about the outcomes of this progress and appear hopeful about what is to come for Detroit.

Released on an annual basis, the Detroit Reinvestment dataset series is a research effort from Kresge’s American Cities Practice.

Read more about this research and download the full research report here.