Highland Park: A community in transition

Highland Park shares a similar history to its older, larger neighbor –Detroit. During the early 20th century, the city grew rapidly and the total population peaked in 1930.

Highland Park is a city in transition and its significant population decline has challenged its long-term financial sustainability. Both Highland Park and the City of Detroit have experienced population declines since at least 1950. Detroit’s 2010 population was 713,000 residents and Highland Park’s was 11,776 and both communities are expected to see further population losses by the 2020 census.

The small community of Highland Park had a 1930 population of more than 50,000 residents. Such a population is impressive for a community that is only 3 square miles, whereas Detroit is 139 square miles. Highland Park has been losing population for 80 years. These population losses have resulted in a variety of challenges for the small urban community. Between 2000 and 2010, the per capita income dropped by 22 percent as median household income declined by 13 percent for the same 10-year period. In 2010, the city had 24 percent of its housing units vacant. Such trends challenge the financial stability of the city.

However, local elected officials and city staff are working to develop plans to curb the outflow of residents. The city’s master plan was updated in 2010 and corresponding zoning changes occurred in 2011. City officials are working to attract new housing construction, such as a five-unit townhouse development. Also, the community is marketing several of its local assets. Highland Park’s proximity to Detroit has ensured that it is a part of the public transportation system. The city is one mile from the growing areas of midtown and the Boston Edison Neighborhood of Detroit. Wayne State University is just three miles south of the city and downtown Detroit is a 15-minute commute from Highland Park.

If the city is successful in reversing the outflow of residents and successful in attracting new commercial, residential and industrial investment, the transition will be to a more prosperous Highland Park, a Highland Park that will be growing in investment and population, a Highland park that will be well-suited to be successful in the new talent-based economy.

For more information or to speak with a Michigan State University Extension educator, visit MSU Extension.

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