2023 By the Numbers

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By Joshua Long, Data Program Director

As we close in on four years post pandemic, how are we doing?

For this installment of the Downtown Detroit Datascape Trends blog, let’s look back at 2023: How far have we come since the start of the pandemic, and what trends are we seeing now and into the future?

After reviewing the data, 2023 is the most “back-to-normal” year since the pandemic upended and shifted life for everyone in March 2020. Now, four years later, let’s take a journey to discover the reality of this new “normal,” and if it is perception or reality, backed by facts and figures.

Visitation in 2023

Downtown Detroit is home to award-winning parks and public spaces, a phenomenal entertainment district with world-class theaters and four professional sports teams, and it’s also the city’s regional center for employment with several global headquarters. All this contributes to strong visitor numbers.

The number of daily visits Downtown has been growing steadily since the lowest point in 2020, but that growth began to stabilize in 2023. The average number of daily visitors for the full year was 82,787, down from the total daily average of 96,075 in 2019. Not surprisingly, the differentiator is the difference in visitors during the work week. On Saturdays and Sundays, Downtown Detroit had the same number of visitors in 2023 as 2019.

Thanks to Taylor Swift’s visit to Ford Field on June 10, 2023, Downtown saw the largest number of people visiting on a single day since at least 2019: 327,882 people. June 2023 was also the highest month for average day visits with 106,291 people.

Daily Downtown Visits, 2019-2023

Downtown Parks Visits Are Up

A big contribution to the growth in visitors Downtown is the five DDP-managed parks and public spaces (Campus Martius Park, Grand Circus, Capitol Park, Cadillac Square, Beacon Park). These world-class public spaces saw 2.2 million visits in 2023 alone, up 6% over 2019 despite the decrease in workers present Downtown since the pandemic.

Downtown Residential Numbers Continues to Grow and Adjust

A substantial jump in the number of residents and residential units happened in 2023, as some notable long-term projects came online. Within the Downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), the 229-unit Book Tower on Washington Blvd. and the 84-unit The Exchange in Greektown increased the total number of residential units by nearly 8%. In addition, several new residential projects opened just outside the BIZ: Lafayette West in Lafayette Park, the Perennial Apartments in Corktown and the Brush and Watson apartments in Brush Park. Together, these new developments have a big impact on the number of people living Downtown and help transform Downtown Detroit from an office-centric business district to a 24/7/365 live/work/play community. The number of average daily residents Downtown (the number of people staying in their residence on any given day) has grown more than 30% since 2019.

Percent Recovered from 2019 

Market rents started to plateau in 2022 and remained stable in 2023. At the end of 2023, the average rent for a Downtown apartment was $1,642, according to CoStar, Inc., nearly exactly what it was at the beginning of 2022. The prices held up despite an increase in the vacancy rate, which increased from 14% to 17% in 2023 as new inventory came online.

New Hotels, More Capacity

Two new Downtown hotels were completed in 2023: the Cambria Downtown Detroit, and the Roost Hotel Book Tower. These two hotels increased room capacity Downtown by 272 rooms, which represents nearly 5% growth. Even with this new supply, revenue Per Available Room was up 8% annually over 2022.

Current Number of Hotel Rooms
20232022% Change
Source: Downtown Detroit Partnership. STR, Inc

Office Market Faces Headwinds

The rise in remote work has challenged the commercial office market. Since most companies are now supporting either fully remote or hybrid work environments, the office market is in flux. As long-term leases end, some companies are opting against renewal or are renewing with smaller footprints. Not surprisingly, the result is higher office vacancies than in recent years. In Detroit, the number of Downtown workers slowly but consistently grew through 2022 and into the spring of 2023. Since then, the worker population has leveled out at about 50% of its pre-pandemic level.

Average Daily Downtown Workers, M-F, 2019-2023

As expected with the reduction in workers Downtown, the vacancy rate of office space Downtown has been trending up, according to CoStar data*. At the end of 2023, the direct vacancy rate Downtown was near 10%. When adding in those tenants that had leases but were not using the space and looking to sublet, it was about 1.5% higher. Those numbers are higher than what we had seen right before the pandemic for Downtown and may creep up further moving forward. Still, the vacancy rate for Downtown is better now than it was a decade ago. With new buildings coming online in the next year, it will be worth monitoring.

In summary, Downtown’s concentration on office business activity is decreasing. Entertainment and residential usage are starting to fill the gap as Downtown visitation is healthy and growing, especially on weekends, and many residential units have been added. Downtown hospitality continues to hold despite fewer business-related trips. Downtown parks are doing great and continue to attract more and more visitors.

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