May 7, 2024 - News

Detroit's downtown foot traffic is increasing

Bar chart showing percent change in downtown visits in select U.S. cities in February 2024 compared to March 2023. Minneapolis had the largest increase in visits, with 45% more downtown visitors over the course of the year. Chicago and Louisville, Ky. had the next largest increases while San Francisco, San Antonio and Forth Worth, Texas had the largest decreases. In Detroit, downtown visits changed by 20.2%.
Data: University of Toronto; Note: Downtown defined as the central location with the highest concentration of employment in each metro area; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Detroit's downtown saw a bump in visitor activity between March 2023 and February 2024, per new University of Toronto data.

Why it matters: It's a sign of improvement for downtown's sluggish post-pandemic recovery.

The big picture: Detroit's 20% increase was 12th largest among more than 50 U.S. cities studied.

  • About a dozen cities saw decreases, led by San Francisco's 22% drop.

How it works: The researchers used anonymized mobile device location data to estimate visitor activity in metro downtowns defined as areas with the highest job concentration.

Zoom in: The latest figures don't account for last month's record-breaking NFL Draft.

Between the lines: Detroit and many of the cities with relatively high recovery rates over this latest period had struggled in past years.

State of play: Cities tended to benefit from a summertime activity bump that faded as colder temperatures arrived this past winter.

What we're watching: It remains to be seen whether the NFL Draft and growing national interest in the city spark more sustained tourism.

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