Survey: Perceptions of downtown Detroit improving

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

The overall perception of downtown Detroit continues to improve in the views of those who work, live and play in the central business district.

In a second annual survey of 4,000 people who mainly live in Metro Detroit, 91 percent of respondents have an overall positive impression of downtown, according to a survey done on behalf of the nonprofit Downtown Detroit Partnership. A year ago, 84 percent of respondents had an overall positive impression of the one-square-mile downtown.

“We are making improvement,” said Eric Larson, CEO of the downtown partnership.

Among those who surveyed, 83 percent of respondents said their opinion of downtown became more optimistic from a year ago.

The highest marks — all in the 90 percent range — show that nine out of ten people view downtown as a great place to show off to friends and is safe during the day. Four out of ten surveyed had spent time downtown just to have fun more than 20 times within the past 12 months.

The top three activities while visiting downtown are dining out, sporting events and simply walking around. The top three destinations are Campus Martius park, Detroit RiverWalk and Comerica Park.

An estimated 2 million people visit Campus Martius annually and about 1 million visit the RiverWalk every year.

At night, perception of safety drops considerably: 60 percent said downtown was safe at night; only 40 percent said street parking is safe.

Larson said more public “education” was needed about street parking, and that vehicle break-ins is the main crime downtown.

The demographic makeup of the respondents shows that downtown generally reflects the population of Metro Detroit, but not the city of Detroit, where black residents are the majority.

Nearly 65 percent of those surveyed were white, 23 percent were black, 4.5 percent were Asian, 3 percent were Latino and 5.5 percent identified as “other.”

About 30 percent of the people who responded were Detroit residents. Out of the 4,000 respondents, a random sample of 1,067 was used, with the sample reflecting the overall demographics of race, gender and ethnicity of all the respondents.

Some of the lowest marks in the survey came from people taking the bus downtown or riding bicycles. Only 22 percent said the bus downtown was safe — though the People Mover got high marks. Only 32 percent of bike riders said it was safe and comfortable downtown.

Also, senior citizens, people with physical disabilities and the LGBT community gave downtown low approval rates in the survey, ranging from the mid-30 percent to high-20 percent range.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN