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Detroit mayor says sports pride, action on vacant buildings helped city's population grow after 57 years of decline

Detroit sees population growth for first time since 1950s
Detroit sees population growth for first time since 1950s 03:59

(CBS DETROIT) — With the news that Detroit's population grew for the first time in decades, Mayor Mike Duggan said hard work, pride in local sports and vacant buildings helped move the needle in a new direction. 

When Duggan was elected in 2014, he told voters to judge him based on whether the population grew. Ten years later, he's achieved that goal.

"In 2013, I set off every speech on saying I was born in Detroit in 1958, and the population of this city has dropped every single year I've been alive," Duggan said. "And so, it did take longer than I would've hoped. Not only did it go up, we jumped from 29th to 26th place, nationally ... and it's exciting to see Detroit climb the list of most populated cities, and not sliding further down."

Detroit gained 1,852 residents between July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023, bringing the population to 633,366, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The city's population now stands ahead of Memphis, Louisville and Portland. 

Duggan says there are a number of reasons for this increase. 

"Well, it's been 10 years of hard work by a lot of people," he said. "We've taken 90% of the abandoned buildings out of the neighborhoods that had to be demolished, and as a result, we had 10,000 vacant buildings that people moved into."

He also pointed to the Detroit Riverfront, which expanded a half-mile last year, creating a 3.5-mile attraction that now provides access to Belle Isle and the sports teams that call the city home.

"The Detroit Riverfront, as you know, has been named best riverwalk in America three years in a row; it's been a huge attraction," said Duggan. 

He also nodded to Detroit's sports teams, following the Detroit Lions' historic season and the city breaking the record for NFL Draft attendance when the event was held downtown last month. (The Detroit Pistons also had a historic season of their own, although likely not of the sort Duggan was referring to.)

"We've got all four professional sports teams downtown, we've been rebuilding beautiful parks, and there's a spirit in the city that people just want to be a part of," Duggan said.

Duggan says focusing on improving "the politics" in the city has also helped him reach this goal and will continue to be a priority. 

"You know, you'd have to go back to the old politics," said Duggan. "The politics in Detroit 'us versus them,' where the mayor fought with the Council, and Detroit fought with Lansing and Detroit fought with the suburbs, was just such a destructive path, but I think we've permanently put that behind us, and we've rebuilt with open arms the partnerships, and I think that's going to continue."

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