Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan: ‘There’s No Doubt Detroit’s Population Is on the Rise’

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan: ‘There’s No Doubt Detroit’s Population Is on the Rise’

January 12, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Despite challenges with the U.S. Census Bureau, Duggan believes that Detroit’s population growth is evident through the rehabilitation of vacant homes.  
  • Duggan expects the Hotel Water Square to help make Detroit a competitive location for even more conventions and large events.
  • Duggan believes that high-skilled graduate students living in Detroit will attract companies of the future, and those jobs will attract even more young people to the city. 

View the session recording below.

In his tenth year as mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan took the main stage at the 2024 Detroit Policy Conference for an interview with Shaina Humphries, Evening Anchor at CBS News Detroit. 

During the interview, Duggan spoke about various topics, ranging from reducing crime rates, connecting the neighborhoods to the riverfront, and renewable energy in Detroit. Here are some of the interview’s key takeaways. 

On Growing Detroit’s Population  

Duggan shared that growing Detroit’s population is key to the city’s revitalization and has been his focus since taking office in 2014. Although the City has faced some challenges with the U.S. Census Bureau and their counting practices, “there’s no doubt Detroit’s population is on the rise.” A recent study by CoreLogic revealed that of 397 cities nationally, Detroit has the greatest home price appreciation in America, surpassing Miami, who has held the title for sixteen consecutive months. Much of Detroit’s growth has been through the rehabilitation of vacant homes, not the building of new ones, which is not accounted for by the U.S Census Bureau.  

On Reducing Crime Rates 

Mayor Mike Duggan at the 2024 Detroit Policy ConferenceWhen it comes to the significant reduction in violent crime in 2023, Duggan credits not only “the best police chief in America,” James White, but also the historic cooperation of the prosecutor, county executive, courts, and the U.S. attorney. He said, “this is the first time in my lifetime that everyone is on the same page in attacking gun violence.” 

It doesn’t happen by accident. It’s due to a clear plan that examines what leads people to violent behavior. Through a collaboration with Wayne State University, the city offered business classes to commanders, captains, and rising stars that taught them how to develop a plan, deploy it, and manage its finances. Many moved on to full master’s degrees. Now the department has a professional management team that “have a background in criminal justice but understand deployment needs.” 

In 2023, the city launched the $10 million Shot Stoppers program. Duggan began by inviting gang members to his office for conversations and discover why they chose to participate in those activities, which informed his unique approach. 6 community groups have been empowered to monitor the amount of gun shots in a particular range and compare year-over-year. He said, “we are taking people who are trusted most by the community and we’re paying them to intervene and prevent.” 

“There’s no question that people in this city have seen the difference.”

On Criticism That New Development Only Focuses on Downtown 

A common criticism of developments in Detroit is that they only benefit downtown. “People talking that way don’t live in this city,” Duggan retorted. As far as he’s concerned, the proof is in the lack of parking spaces at the Avenue of Fashion on the weekends, the transformed formerly vacant storefronts on Kercheval in West Village, and the impending development of the Dexter-Rosa Parks neighborhood.

Related: Detroit’s First Word on Community Impact Through NeighborHUB 

When Tiger’s Stadium closed in 1999 and was demolished in 2009, everyone said, “Corktown’s dead.” When you drive down Michigan Avenue today, lined with retail, restaurants, and residences, it’s clear how wrong they were. Having just attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Perennial Apartments, the mayor boasted about Detroit’s affordable housing requirements and the importance of combatting gentrification so people of all incomes can live in the city. 

On New Convention Hotel 

There are 120 city-wide conventions hosted throughout the country each year, many of which require that the destination have a hotel connected to their convention center. While Detroit wins about 8-10, the city has been missing out on tens of millions of dollars of investments without this amenity. 

Built on the former site of Joe Louis Arena, Hotel Water Square will make Detroit a competitive location for even more conventions and large events. With a skywalk connecting it to Huntington Place, the plans also include a tree-lined plaza that expands Second Avenue into downtown so residents have easier access to the riverfront, including the new Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.  

On the New University of Michigan Center for Innovation 

Mayor Mike Duggan speaks at the 2024 Detroit Policy ConferenceDuggan predicted that the incoming University of Michigan Center for Innovation (UMCI), “may end up being the most important thing that I’ve done.” The UMCI will be a homecoming for the university, which was founded in the city in 1817 before moving to Ann Arbor in 1837. He shared insight from Stephen Ross that “high-end corporations – the jobs of the future – want to know that the top talent is being trained nearby.” 

He said, “kids may want to graduate from the University of Michigan, but they want to live in Detroit when they’re done.” High-skilled graduate students living in Detroit will attract companies of the future that are looking for a place to put their headquarters, and those jobs of the future will attract even more young people.  

Related: Long-term Solutions for Higher Education 

On the Henry Ford Hospital Expansion 

Henry Ford Hospital has partnered with the Detroit Pistons and Michigan State University on a $2 billion project to create the “finest hospital in the Midwest, right in the city of Detroit.” Likening it to the Mayo Clinic, this hospital complex, complete with a research center, affordable housing, and a developing commercial and cultural corridor along East Grand Boulevard, has the potential to be a destination for doctors, patients, and students. 

On the City’s Solar Energy Initiative 

“I got tired of politicians in this country talking about climate change and not doing anything about it. It’s amazing how much attention you can get for just talking about it,” said the mayor. His initiative to transition all city buildings to solar power is not a novel one, but what is unique is that the solar farms will be housed within the city, using vacant lots. With neighborhood approval and cooperation, this is a big step toward addressing the scars of environmental racism in Detroit.  

Related: Anika Goss’s Power Perspective on Living an Equitable “Soft Life 

On the NFL Draft 

“Football fans are nuts,” Duggan joked. “They really think the first-round draft pick is going to change the fortune of their franchise.” This fanatic hope and excitement will draw countless people from across the U.S. downtown for the NFL draft, April 25-27. While most host cities don’t plan their programming for the city center because of logistics, Detroit will be activated from Campus Martius to Hart Plaza. “This is going to be a Detroit event,” he promised.  

When it comes to changing the nation’s perception of the city, tainted by a decades-old bankruptcy narrative, he said, “The only way to undo that is not a story in the LA Times. We need to bring people here to see it.” 

This session was sponsored by MotorCity Casino and Hotel