‘Two Detroits’: Even Far From Downtown, Contrasts Abound In City Neighborhoods

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Why are some Detroit neighborhood heading in the right direction and others heading in the opposite? Some suggest what may represent the key element separating the successes from the disappointments — is that successful districts enjoy a professional community development organization with paid staffers and adequate financial resources to work on neighborhood problems.

Detroit Free Press

When people talk about the problem of “Two Detroits,” they generally mean the contrast between an affluent downtown teeming with projects by Dan Gilbert and the Ilitch family and the city’s significantly poorer neighborhoods.

But a closer examination of the city’s complex landscape reveals another, and perhaps as significant, version of “Two Detroits”: Even far from downtown, some neighborhoods do relatively well, with rising incomes and lessening poverty, while many other neighborhoods continue to slide downhill.

Detroit’s challenge is that the vast majority of its neighborhoods remain headed in the wrong direction, as least as measured by Census statistics. Of the nearly 300 Census tracts in the city, each covering several square blocks, two-thirds showed an increase in the poverty rate between 2010 and 2015, and more than two-thirds showed a decline in median household income during that time span.

Consider two contrasting neighborhoods, both distant from downtown. One, straddling West Vernor Highway in southwest Detroit between Livernois on the west and Clark Park on the east, has enjoyed a rising economic tide in recent years.

In a Census tract covering the western part of the district along West Vernor, median household income shot up from $22,328 to $32,685 from 2010 to 2015 and the poverty rate dropped from 51% in 2010 to 32.5% in 2015. Somehow, a working-class district known for its Hispanic restaurants and tortilla factories has managed to improve its outlook even in a city still suffering widespread poverty.

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