A recent survey documented 85,000 blighted parcels in Detroit. Just tearing the buildings down will cost $2 billion.

The modern image of Detroit is of a city that’s falling apart. But it’s easy to forget how quickly things have changed.

One Detroiter decided to turn to Google Street View and Bing Maps to show how blocks keep evolving in the GooBing Detroit Tumblr, with side-by-side views of the same street in different years.

“There seems to be a thought outside the city that Detroit has been this way for a long time,” says Alex Alsop, who started the Tumblr. “It's just not the case. The financial crisis in Detroit was a hurricane without water. It's not over, either--the deterioration is ongoing.”

Alsop started the project on the side because of his work with Loveland Technologies, a company that helped lead the city's massive blight mapping project.

"We track the tens of thousands of Detroit properties that are tax foreclosed every year since the financial crisis," he says. "I wanted to see what the fate of those properties was."

Initially, he used both Google and Bing, since Google's Street View cameras had snapped pictures of the city around 2010, and Bing in 2012.

Now, since Google recently released a Time Machine feature that shows photography by year, he sticks solely to Google Maps, picking the parts of the city with the highest foreclosure rates.

Even after watching the city dramatically change for several years, Alsop says he still isn't used to it.

"Detroit surprises me every day," he says. "I think it'd be problematic if a city looking like this became normal or mundane. This is not normal--it should not be normal."

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2014-06-11

Co.Exist

Watch Detroit's Rapid Collapse In These Side-By-Side Street-View Images

The modern image of Detroit is of a city that’s falling apart. But it’s easy to forget how quickly it's happening before our eyes.

Earlier this year, hundreds of workers drove down Detroit streets block by block, mapping out every abandoned home, decaying factory, and trash-filled vacant lot. They counted nearly 85,000 blighted parcels; just tearing the buildings down will cost $2 billion.

Thanks to an unending public appetite for ruin porn, these numbers aren’t necessarily surprising. The modern image of Detroit is of a city that’s falling apart. But it’s easy to forget how quickly things have changed. One Detroiter decided to turn to Google Street View and Bing Maps to show how blocks keep evolving in the GooBing Detroit Tumblr, with side-by-side views of the same street in different years.

"There seems to be a thought outside the city that Detroit has been this way for a long time," says Alex Alsop, who started the Tumblr. "It's just not the case. The financial crisis in Detroit was a hurricane without water. It's not over, either—the deterioration is ongoing."

Alsop started the project on the side because of his work with Loveland Technologies, a company that helped lead the city's massive blight mapping project. "We track the tens of thousands of Detroit properties that are tax foreclosed every year since the financial crisis," he says. "I wanted to see what the fate of those properties was."

Initially, he used both Google and Bing, since Google's Street View cameras had snapped pictures of the city around 2010, and Bing in 2012. Now, since Google recently released a Time Machine feature that shows photography by year, he sticks solely to Google Maps, picking the parts of the city with the highest foreclosure rates.

Even after watching the city dramatically change for several years, Alsop says he still isn't used to it. "Detroit surprises me every day," he says. "I think it'd be problematic if a city looking like this became normal or mundane. This is not normal—it should not be normal."

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5 Comments

  • Brigitte Marie

    This article lacks journalistic integrity. To suggest that the entire city of Detroit has collapsed in a 3 year time is ignorant at best. These problems have been ongoing for decades. I can use Google Maps in ANY city in the United States to show a few select properties that have had fires or destroyed in a three year time period. But to take a fragment of the homes in the city which have decayed over that period and to make an argument that all of this reflects the city as a whole is disingenuous. I don't know who "Alex Alsop" is, but I live in Detroit and my family lived in Detroit while many others were fleeing for decades. Many of these homes have been this way for decades. These problems did not just start in 2009. I would also like to add that there are many neighborhoods in Detroit where you will not see this kind of damage or decay at all. I am so tired of people making misrepresentations of my city so that they can grab a headline. Disappointing article.

  • As an outsider - a potential investor - I would also dismiss a one sided view of Detroit. It's really important to strike a fair balance of a city that goes through a tough period but that has a solid potential to revamp itself. FastCo - you guys can do better than this.

  • Neil Mason

    Detroit will be one of the most robust cities in the world 30 years from now. It will be torn to the ground and rebuilt with the latest technology - similar to the Great Fire of London in 1666. I have high hopes for this city. It is a new beginning not a tragic end.