There's a bit of hand-wringing today as newly released Census figures show that although Detroit's population loss stopped somewhat, some of the city's suburbs are seeing a population boom.
Detroit still has more than 700,000 for now. That keeps us more than Cleveland, at least. Experts still predict that even as downtown adds more workers (all of whom aren't necessarily living downtown, though) to the city, residents will still move out over the next few years.
But the city's losses has been its suburbs' gains. Macomb Township, Ann Arbor, Novi, Shelby Township and Rochester Hills all saw the metro area's greatest population gains and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.
Look at Detroit and then look at Macomb Township, Novi, Rochester Hills and Shelby Township. Each of those Oakland and Macomb county suburbs have two key things involved in raising a family: Easy access to cheap-ass chain stores and restaurants and public school systems that aren't circling the drain thanks to confusing management and student enrollment drops.
Picture this: You're a mom, and you just picked up the kids from their state-controlled, possibly unsecured school. You pick up your kids from school because you don't want them walking past one of the thousands of abandoned structures, or because the public bus system is so screwed up it might be hours before they come home, and plus you want your kids to come home in one piece. Your kids want to eat and it's your parental duty to feed them. You forgot to defrost a ham or whatever, so maybe you'll pick up one of those pre-made rotisserie chickens from Kroger. You know, the ones they sell by the U-Scans.
If you live in Detroit, you have to drive all the way to that Kroger on Eight Mile in Ferndale if you're on the westside (or maybe the one in Redford off Telegraph), or that one on Nine Mile in Hazel Park if you're on the east. But maybe you don't feel like doing all that so maybe you want to take the kids out to eat. Where? The kids just had coney island the other day. And the day before that. Let's think of all the other family-friendly places to sit down and eat in the city. Outside downtown. Not a coney island. Keep thinking. Yeah.
Hmm, so then what? Head downtown, perhaps? Load up the kids and take them to Roast? That's about what, $15 bucks a meal, per kid? Drive downtown, park by one of the broken meters, drive back home....nah, that's just exhausting. Welp, looks like another $5 pizza for dinner!
Or you could just live in Macomb Township, have your kids walk or take a school bus home and if this crazy dinner situation comes up, an Applebee's or a Meijer isn't too far away. And if it's pizza again, NBD! At least they'll actually deliver to you in Macomb Township. Or Novi, Shelby Township or Rochester Hills. And after dinner, the kids can play in a park that's not overrun with weeds.
I say all this not to diss Detroit (or Roast). It's just the reality that a lot of families face. The whole "suburbs and sprawl is evil" sentiment is null and void when you've got bigger issues on your plate.
So no, don't look at Macomb Township with scorn because everybody that lives there doesn't have the time or resources to fix up an old brick Victorian. Instead, pray that Dan Gilbert might consider opening an Applebee's on, say, Grand River and Oakman Boulevard as well as the central business district.