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Detroit Sustainability Indicators

Project Summary

With approximately 30% vacant land within the City of Detroit and an infrastructure built to support a population of nearly two million in the 1950s compared to less than 700,000 today, numerous sustainable redevelopment ideas have been proposed for the City.
To support these efforts, the Graham Institute partnered with Data Driven Detroit (D3) to initiate the Detroit Sustainability Indicators Project in 2011. D3 is a nonprofit organization that provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive decision-making that strengthens communities in Southeast Michigan.
In partnership with D3, the Graham Institute funded six U-M faculty-led research projects to develop data, tools, and analysis to help decision makers in Detroit consider sustainability in their planning efforts. The projects addressed economic, environmental, and social aspects of sustainability on topics including: Vacant Land, Stormwater Management, Air Pollution, Federal Investment Trends, and Measuring Urban Sustainability.

Key Outcomes

Data Access
Ensuring the data generated from the project would be publicly accessible was one of the IA’s primary goals. The final spatial (GIS) data products are available through D3, and the data will be integrated into D3’s broader database as appropriate to allow users to compare multiple data sets simultaneously.
Findings and Recommendations
In addition to the data, each team produced a summary report including a description of the project, findings, and recommendations for data use and potential policy options for decision makers using the data. 
New Opportunities & Engagement
Building on the project's success, the Graham Institute secured additional funding from the former U-M Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society (CARSS) to support a three-year series of workshops led by D3 to facilitate the use of sustainability data in Detroit. 
These hands-on workshops introduce stakeholders and decision-makers from city government, neighborhood groups, environmental justice organizations, and foundations to the available information and tools. In addition to building capacity for data-driven decision-making, the workshops provide an opportunity for cross-sectoral conversations about Detroit’s sustainability challenges and opportunities.

Project Teams

Joan Nassauer – SNRE
Eric Dueweke – Architecture & Urban Planning
Brian Min – Political Science, LSA
Jowei Chen – Political Science, LSA


For more information, please contact John Callewaert, IA Program Director at (734) 615-3752 or
The Graham Sustainability Institute awarded a total of $270,000 to 7 project teams in 2011.