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Kresge survey highlights Detroit’s need for retail

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Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

We talk about it all the time: Detroit has seen great revitalization in the last few years, but it still needs more retail offerings. The Kresge Foundation has just released its third Detroit Reinvestment Index, and confirming this need and desire for retail among its residents.

The survey measured perceptions of Detroit among three groups: national business leaders, Detroit metro-area entrepreneurs, and Detroit metro-area consumers. Some of the questions were honestly hard to disagree with.

  • How strongly do you agree or disagree that the development or improvement of retail districts should be prioritized to ensure a successful renaissance and recovery of the city of Detroit?
  • How important is it to have a thriving retail district in or near your neighborhood?
  • How important do you believe it is to invest additional funds and resources in retail districts throughout Detroit?

Residents overwhelmingly agreed with these. In recent years, there’s been a lack of basic needs-based retail and grocery stores in the city. Often, it’s just more convenient to go to the suburbs. The city has started prioritizing commercial corridors recently, which would increase access to retail and strengthen neighborhoods.

Overall, the results provided a few interesting takeaways. When asked which retail districts consumers preferred to shop in, Detroit residents chose downtown, 8 Mile and Woodward, and Eastern Market as their top three choices. Suburban consumers chose downtown, Eastern Market, and Midtown. Major—or big box—retailers are located at 8 Mile and Woodward (Meijer, Marshalls, Petco), while other districts like Midtown have smaller, local businesses.

Both Detroit and suburban residents cited parking, security/safety, and the convenience of malls as challenges to shopping in the city. Looking broadly at the city and its needs, both Detroit and suburban residents found safety, neighborhood revitalization, and education to be top priorities in the city’s comeback.

But one question shows what Detroiters often think of the city, as opposed to perceptions of outside media. “How confident are you that Detroit can recover and become a great American city again?” 84 percent of national business leaders responded that they felt confident in the recovery, with suburban residents at 88 percent. Detroit entrepreneurs came in at 92 percent, with Detroit residents at 94 percent.

It’s looking up in Detroit, but there’s still plenty of work to do. The full report can be accessed here.