Survey: Perceptions of downtown Detroit improve

Posted on July 18, 2017

The perception of downtown Detroit continues to improve, according to a survey among residents in southeast Michigan.

Among nearly 4,000 respondents, most of whom live in Metro Detroit, 93 percent had an overall positive impression of downtown, according to the third annual perception survey by the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Downtown Business Improvement Zone released Wednesday. Last year, that figure was 91 percent; in 2015, it was 84 percent.

“We’re pleased our efforts are building on the positive sentiment over last year’s results,” said Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

Among those surveyed, more than 95 percent said downtown Detroit has a lot of potential and is safe during the day. More than 90 percent of respondents said the downtown is a good place to bring out-of-town guests and offers a variety of entertainment and dining options as well as exciting events and activities.

The top three activities downtown were dining out, strolling around, and visiting bars and clubs. The top three destinations were Campus Martius Park, Detroit RiverWalk and Renaissance Center.

Areas that drew less favorable impressions were in the area of transit, with just 32 percent of respondents saying they felt safe and comfortable riding a bike downtown. Only 15 percent said it was easy to find information on how to take the bus, 18.8 percent found the bus to be convenient and 27 percent viewed riding the bus as safe. The survey, conducted prior to the launch of the M-1 Rail in May, showed that 81 percent of respondents were looking forward to riding the QLine.

Larson said concerns about cycling in downtown Detroit have led to efforts such as the Downtown Bike Network, a 1.6-mile, $3 million project planned to improve street and sidewalk connections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Another area with room for improvement was inclusion, Larson said. The survey showed 77 percent believe downtown Detroit is welcoming of all racial and ethnic groups, while 10.4 percent disagreed and 12.6 percent were neutral.

“We still have a real need to figure out how we can embrace the various diversities that exists within our community,” he said. “We across the board have seen positive trajectory moving up, but there is still work to be done there.”

The Spirit of Detroit Plaza, a section of Woodward closed off in June outside of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, is one way groups have hoped to address the issue. The pedestrian space serves as a place where the community can converse or rally, Larson said.

LaVERDAD Research, a disabled veteran-owned firm based in Cincinnati, conducted the survey and analyzed the results, according to the downtown partnership. Most of the respondents live in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and a third were Detroit residents. Survey participants were solicited in various venues, such as social media, businesses and churches. The responses were anonymous and collected online.

Demographics for the respondents were split in the middle in terms of gender and there was a broad age range with about 21 percent who were ages 25-34 and 22 percent whose ages ranged from 45-54. About 70 percent of respondents were white or European; 21.8 percent were black, Afro-Caribbean or African-American; and 2.8 percent were Latino or Hispanic. Among smaller segments represented were those who were 2.3 percent Middle Eastern or Arab and 2 percent Native American or Alaskan Native.

About 55 percent of respondents said they work in downtown Detroit.