Last month, when Detroit City Council rejected a deal that would have given the Moroun family city property to build another international bridge crossing, my first reaction was genuine surprise. The deal was first announced in 2015, and residents of the Hubbard Richard neighborhood in Southwest Detroit have been rallying against it even longer. But, considering the city’s long history with the Morouns, I didn’t expect those objections to stop the deal (and indeed, it might not be totally dead).
It so often feels like, in this town or any other, that people with more money and power tend to get their way more frequently than those who don’t. But what we witnessed in Southwest was democracy in action. Residents organized and took their concerns to their elected representatives, who then advocated for their interests.
Journalism plays an invaluable role in that process. Local reporters have been chronicling Moroun property deals for years, as well as political lobbying, code violations and plenty, plenty more. But so many more developments and deals fly under the radar, as Detroit land changes hands at an unprecedented clip. All residents should have access to information and be equipped to advocate for their interests when it comes to changes in their own neighborhoods.
In the first quarter of 2022, Detour will launch a beta version of the Detroit Development Tracker, a tool that will help residents get the information they need about development in their neighborhoods. This site will let you see a map of proposed and in-progress development projects in the city, as well as who owns it, related public meetings and more.
Built by Detour, along with data engineer (and Detour member!) Jimmy McBroom, the Detroit Development Tracker will be continually updated by journalists. We’ll also rely on users like you to flag new changes in your neighborhood and raise questions about what’s going on around you. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, here’s a little background and a status update.
We don’t know of any local news organizations doing anything quite like this. We are building a new kind of service journalism product, in a city where the need and opportunity grows larger by the day. As we prepare to launch the Development Tracker, we’re asking for your support.
The grant that funded the first stage of the project runs out in February, and we need $10,000 in additional funding to expand and improve it. If you think Detroiters will benefit from the Development Tracker, and your budget allows it, please become a Detour member. From now until Dec. 31, the national local journalism fundraising campaign NewsMatch will match every penny of a new monthly membership 12 times. For a small, independent organization like us, your $5 a month (or more) will go a long way toward making this project a reality. NewsMatch will also match your one-time donation up to $1,000.
There’s a lot we’re figuring out as we go, so we’ll be asking you to demo the tracker and share your feedback in the coming months. But “figuring it out as we go” is a mode we’re pretty familiar with here at Detour – and, I believe, a necessary space to operate from when you’re striving to fill new gaps, create new models and do a better job than the day before.
We’ve always said we’re committed to community-powered journalism. The Detroit Development Tracker might not look exactly like traditional journalism, but it is the latest iteration of our mission, designed to serve and be served by more residents than anything we’ve done so far.
Thank you dearly for helping us get here, and best wishes for a safe, happy, well informed and community-powered 2022.