Using Google Street View to Track Urban Decay

The Michigan city of Detroit has an estimated 20 square miles of vacant, abandoned and underused land.  Over the past twenty years, more than 250,00 residents have left the 139 square mile city which now is home to about 700,000.  At its peak, Detroit held over 1.8 million residents in the 1950s.  The 2010 US Census counted 713,777, a 60 percent drop in residents. The deindustrialization of Detroit, especially the decline of the automobile industry is a major factor affecting the economic health of the city and the loss of a large portion of its residents.

Loss of residents also result in a high number of blighted properties.  During the Motor City Mapping Survey, the Blight Taskforce performed a inventory of all 380,217 parcels in Detroit and found a total of 84,641 blighted parcels: 73,035 residential structures, 6,135 vacant lots (requiring clearing), and 5,471 non-residential structures (commercial, civic, church).

Tracking Urban Decay in Detroit

Alex Alsup from LOVELAND Technologies has been tracking the decline of some of those neighborhoods on his Tumblr blog: GooBing Detroit.  Alsup first used images pulled from Google Streetview (c. 2009) and Bing Streetview (c. 2012) before migrating to pulling images from Google Street View Time Machine.  The images are stark in how quickly  neat and tidy streets quickly succumbed to crumbling and graffiti.

This row of house on Exeter between Seven Mile and Penrose in Northern Detroit shows the progression of increased blight starting in 2009 (top picture), 2011 (middle), and 2013 (bottom).

This row of house on Exeter between Seven Mile and Penrose in Northern Detroit shows the progression of increased blight starting in 2009 (top picture), 2011 (middle), and 2013 (bottom).