Fifteen years ago, downtown Detroit was a traditional central business district (CBD) dominated by office users and offering little else, such as housing, entertainment, or retail. Over the past decade, more than $15billion has been invested downtown by the private and public sectors, according to the Tourism Economic Development Council, building two new professional sports stadiums, live theater and opera venues, gaming casinos and hotels, major new Class A offices for General Motors and Compuware, rental residential, retail, restaurants, and nightclubs. As a result of these investments, the character of downtown Detroit has fundamentally changed.

Given these changes, the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program Urban Markets Initiative, The Social Compact, and the University of Michigan worked together to evaluate the market size and potential of downtown Detroit. These three organizations used progressive analytics for downtown development to create this report. Most notable is the DRILLDOWN technique, one that is field-proven in leading urban markets such as Washington D.C., Harlem, and Oakland, to quantify opportunities in downtown Detroit. The progressive analytic methods used in this analysis for downtown development incorporated best practices in market research and new ways in which communities are now analyzing their unique data.

Using these market analysis techniques, this report finds the following opportunities in downtown Detroit:

  • An increasing downtown population with growing incomes
  • Strong, continued demand for residential construction and conversion
  • An underserved retail market for groceries and consumer goods such as clothing and clothing accessories, electronics and appliances, building materials and garden equipment, furniture and home furnishings
  • A thriving critical mass of urban entertainment venues and quality public space

In sum, downtown Detroit has the market foundation to become a vibrant, 24-hour residential, commercial, and entertainment district. With additional and strategic investments in retail and housing, downtown Detroit has the potential to be a strong center for its region.