Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last House on the Prairie

Journalists - and particularly out-of-town journalists - seem obsessed with the life of the city's most isolated residents. A typical news story about the city's developing right-sizing plan almost always begins by interviewing an isolated resident whose house is the last one on the block. In a standard article, this homeowner usually bemoans their isolated location, but insists that they will never leave. These stories usually cite these residents as both a reason for, and an obstacle to, efforts to right-size the city.

NPR, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Lost Magazine, The Metro Times, Harper's Magazine, Fox 2 News, Forbes, and Architect Magazine all subscribe to this narrative. In fact, almost every national or local paper - except for the Detroit Free Press and Model D - has run at least one article on the city featuring an interview with one of these "last house on the block" (LHB) residents. NewsBank and Lexis Nexis return stories from more than 30 newspapers featuring an LHB resident. This resident on St. Aubin, for example, was interviewed earlier this year.

But just how common are these rural Detroiters? Does the size of the city's LHB population warrant the attention? Using Detroit Residential Parcel Survey and City of Detroit data, I tried to measure this phenomenon. I used the radius of a short block, 300 feet, as my threshold for isolation - if a resident's nearest neighbor was more than 300' away, I included them as a LHB.

Perhaps Detroit is not home to enough rural residents to warrant the attention. In total, only 134 occupied homes in the city were more than 300' from the nearest occupied home in 2009.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Detroit's Liquor Stores

According to liquor license data provided by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, Detroit leads the state in liquor sales and active liquor licenses. Not only does Detroit have the most active liquor licenses of any local jurisdiction, but the city's liquor stores, bars, and alcohol-serving restaurants have higher liquor sales than any city or county in the state.

Based on 2009 liquor tax collection data, this graph shows that Detroit sells more liquor than the rest of Wayne County or any other city or county in the state.

Similarly, Detroit had the most liquor licenses per resident (measured here as residents per liquor license to avoid comparing small fractions) in 2009.

Clearly, no area in the city is without a liquor store or bar. In fact, every resident of the city lives within .7 miles of one of the city's 810 liquor stores or 560 bars.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Michael Kelly & Matthew Tatarian, Continued

This map may offer more concrete evidence of Michael Kelly and Matthew Tatarian's business model. This map, created using SEMCOG and City of Detroit Assessor data, shows the properties owned by Kelly and Tatarian, and notes whether the properties are within 45' of a parcel owned by the City of Detroit, the Wayne County Land Bank, or a local non-profit. (I excluded the State of Michigan, Wayne County or the Federal Government because these governments do not usually collect property for parcel assembly- rather, they usually focus on disposition.) I chose this distance based on the distribution of street widths and lot frontages throughout the city - nearly all of the city's lots are between 30 and 40 feet wide. Using this metric, a 45' radius includes properties adjacent to, and two doors down from, a Kelly-owned property without including properties further away. Similarly, this radius includes properties across alleys and streets, without including properties across both a street and an alley.

Clearly, this map suggests that Kelly and Tatarian seek properties in areas near properties owned by non-profits and property-assembling governments. Nearly 75% (1048/1405) of properties owned by Kelly and Tatarian are within 45' of city- or non-profit-owned properties, about twice the rate for other properties.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Michael Kelly & Matthew Tatarian

Detroit faces serious challenges from property speculation. Investors such as Allen Shiffman, Matty Moroun, Michael Kelly and Matthew Tatarian often buy property from the city and county at steep discounts with hopes to resell the properties to other parties - including, ironically, the city and county - at a huge profit. The business models of each speculator range drastically, however, so it is difficult to predict their behavior at auctions. Using SEMCOG and City of Detroit Assessor data, this map suggests that Kelly and Tatarian focus their purchasing in several areas of strategic importance to the City of Detroit. As of 2009, the two own about 1,500 properties. This map details the density (# properties/square mile) of their holdings.