Today, Detour Detroit is thrilled to announce the beta launch of the Detroit Development Tracker, an open-source, service-journalism tool that aims to help Detroiters better understand the real estate development projects that are changing the city’s landscape and impacting its communities.
As development activity skyrockets in the city – and developers’ plans constantly change – we believe residents deserve better access to information about what is being built and who is building it. The Detroit Development Tracker aims to take this information out of the domain of developers, funders and city bureaucracy, empowering Detroiters to better understand and influence the forces shaping their own neighborhoods.
You can now visit the tracker site to explore the map or search for a development project. Each development project page includes more details about the taxpayer, what is being built, the status of the project, zoning and other information when available, like cost and images. The tracker is meant to be a participatory project, relying on users like you to share information about developments you see around you. All submissions are reviewed by journalists.
The tracker now contains development projects within city boundaries that were in the works as of 2022, and we will continue adding new projects and updating existing ones.
The information in this tracker is collected from a variety of sources, including public documents and meetings, independent research and open data scraped from sources including the Detroit Open Data Portal, the city’s Parcel Viewer and Detroit Documenters. Our data also relies on reporting from other local news outlets. We believe the tracker will strengthen real estate development coverage for Detroit residents, and it wouldn’t be possible without the existing, and essential, local journalism from our peers in the local media ecosystem.
The first iteration of the Detroit Development Tracker was built as a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship project by Detour cofounder Kate Abbey-Lambertz, along with civic engineer Jimmy McBroom.
With the beta launch, we’re eager to get this tool into the hands of Detroiters and learn how we can improve it. In the coming months, we’ll be conducting user testing and establishing a system for long-term management. We’ll also be using your feedback to build a roadmap for the tracker’s next iteration.
Possible changes might include incorporating additional information about each development, like timelines, more ownership details and funding sources; expansion to Hamtramck and Highland Park or including projects from the recent past. We’ll also look into new functionality, like filtering, calendars for related public meetings, alerts and more mapping features.
But first – we need you to take it out for a spin. If you are a Detroit resident who wants to know more about development; a developer who is interested in democratizing the development landscape and building relationships with the people your projects serve; a member of a neighborhood group or other organization that serves Detroiters; a local journalism or data outlet that is interested in partnering; or just have an idea for how the tracker could serve our city better, we want to hear from you.
This spring, we will also release a toolkit for building service journalism products on a budget, designed for small, local newsrooms that want to make public data more useful for readers.
History and people
Detour Detroit is an independent, community-powered local media outlet founded in 2018. Kate Abbey-Lambertz, editorial director of Detour, manages the tracker and built it with Jimmy McBroom, lead developer. (Disclosure: Jimmy is a data engineer with the City of Detroit, where his team manages the Open Data Portal. He works on the tracker in his personal capacity; the City of Detroit has no role in its operation or maintenance.)
Kate and Jimmy started collaborating on the project in 2020 based on a prototype he helped build at the City in 2017. In 2021, Kate and Detour were awarded a fellowship from the Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship at the Missouri School of Journalism to build and launch the Detroit Development Tracker. Rasha Almulaiki, Rukiya Colvin, Lauren Ann Davies, Lindsay Farris, Nina Ignaczak, Noah Kincade, Jessica McInchak, Ivy Tran, Paul Warner and Ashley Woods Branch also worked on elements of the tracker.
The Detroit Development Tracker project is funded by the Reynolds Journalism Institute; the Detroit Equity Action Lab – Race and Justice Reporting Initiative, a program of The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights; and Detour Detroit members and individual donors.