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Improving Commercial Real Estate Data in Detroit

Detroit's Planning Department and Wayne State University uncover the condition and use of commercial properties across the city

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Understanding Detroit's Small Businesses

The Detroit Commercial Land Inventory City Study (CLICS) conducted a comprehensive survey of commercial land in the City of Detroit to document the use, condition, and design of approximately one third of all commercially zoned parcels in the city. This was the first study of its kind in twenty-eight years.

9,538 commercial properties

The problem: A significant lack of data on the land use and condition of commercial parcels in the city required better data. Inconsistencies between zoning and reality prevented decisionmakers from making an informed analysis.

The University-Public partnership turned to the LocalData team to make the process fast and accurate. Instead of spending weeks transcribing paper forms, student teams were able to use their smartphones to quickly collect data in the field and transform it into actionable information

"This was the first study of its kind conducted at this scale in twenty-eight years."

CLICs decided to focus on specific corridors in Detroit identified by the planning department and Detroit Works including areas zoned as commercial, Main Street overlay areas, major corridors, thoroughfares, and Detroit Works Project demonstration areas of targeted investment and economic development. LocalData integrated the city's parcel data to make sure that records were accurate and give survey teams on-the-ground context.

Collaboration is key

Survey team managers used LocalData's web-based dashboard to easily view the results from work or home. Survey groups large and small were free to collect data without worrying about license restrictions.

2,052 empty lots
1,902 vacant units

Data in action

The data produced in this study has been used to inform strategic decisionmaking in city government around accessibility to existing businesses, assess facades and curb appeal for shaping investment programs, and identify areas of opportunity for revised zoning.

Data collected was used to inform the planning and zoning laws for businesses in the city. Ultimately, data needed to be accurate in order to prevent existing zoning legislation from contradicting a new vision for Detroit's future outlined in Detroit's Master Plan. Beyond making data better in this city, the CLICs partnership shared data with the larger public and stakeholder institutions to make more informed decisions about strategic commercial real estate development.

The study was implemented in a partnership between Wayne State University's Urban Planning graduate class, Data Driven Detroit (D3), and the City of Detroit Planning + Development Department.

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