by Michael Perna
on Thursday, January 7th, 2021 at 12:38pm.
Nicknamed "Motor City," Detroit and its suburbs are part of an expansive metro area that is home to a population of 4.3 million people. Detroit is Michigan's largest city, with a population of 3,548,000. Recognized as the birthplace of the Motown label, the city also serves as the region's cultural and music center.
Over the past few decades, the city's oldest neighborhoods have gone through major revitalization, while at the same time, new developments are cropping up throughout the city. Other areas that have undergone renovation in recent years include neighborhood community centers, historic entertainment venues and the city's riverfront district. Now, many Detroit neighborhoods have become walkable, with central locations and architecture to make touring the city on foot a breeze. Here are some of the best walkable neighborhoods in Detroit, MI.
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Woodbridge is a historic Detroit neighborhood, known for its Victorian architecture. It is located northwest of Detroit's downtown. The neighborhood was named after William Woodbridge, former governor and previous owner of the land where the neighborhood now stands. Woodbridge was first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, with its designated boundaries expanding twice.
As the auto industry grew, it put a strain on available housing, causing apartment houses and other residential buildings to be constructed between the neighborhood's existing homes. During World War II, the neighborhood again felt the strain, as demand grew to accommodate defense industry workers. During this period, some homes were divided for multi-family use.
In addition to its historically significant architecture, the neighborhood appeals to residents because of its location and community cohesiveness. It is a popular choice for prospective homeowners looking for an intact neighborhood of turn-of-the-century residences that is also close enough to walk or bike to some of Detroit's most popular nearby districts—Downtown, Midtown, New Center, and Corktown.
Located adjacent to the west side of Downtown Detroit, Corktown has the distinction of being the city's oldest existing neighborhood. Its earliest architecture is primarily Federal style, with both detached homes as well as rowhouses. Later architectural style included Italianate, Gothic and Queen Anne style.
While most immigrants flocked to downtown, those from Ireland tended to choose the less-congested area west of the city. By the 1850s, nearly half of Corktown's residences identified themselves as being of Irish descent. The area eventually became known as Corktown, named after a county in Ireland.
By the 1890s, the neighborhood had become more diverse. After World War I, there was a growing need for autoworkers, bringing immigrants to the area in droves.
Corktown has gone through considerable revitalization in the last decade or two, with new businesses moving into formerly abandoned properties.
The neighborhood is prized for its close proximity to Detroit's downtown, making the community walkable or cyclable to an array of amenities and services. Corktown also offers convenient access to the city's primary thoroughfares.
Lafayette Park has the distinction of being one of the earliest successes among planned urban renewal projects. The neighborhood is located just south of the Eastern Market historic district on Detroit's lower east side. It is dominated by three high-rise apartment buildings, constructed of unencumbered glass and steel, the neighborhood's trademark. The remainder of the residential area consists primarily of one- and two-story cooperatives and apartment buildings.
Lafayette Park's architecture style is predominantly post-World Warr II modernist. It is particularly known for its residential historic district of homes designed by noted modernist architects.
A greenway cuts through the 46-acre neighborhood, forming Lafayette Plaisance Park, Lafayette Central Park and Lafayette Entry Park. Residents also have convenient access to the adjacent Dequindre Cut Greenway bicycle trail. The neighborhood is considered walkable due to the large number of restaurants and coffee shops within accessible distance to its residential district. It is prized for its village-like feel and shaded lawns.
The 1.4-square-mile district forming Detroit's Downtown is bordered by the Detroit River to the south, Interstate 375 to the east, Interstate Highway 75 to the north and Lodge Freeway to the west.
Although the city's original downtown district was devastated by fire in 1805, the city recovered and the downtown population began to swell as the automotive industry boomed. The Downtown district's architecture is primarily from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Although the Great Recession forced the city to file bankruptcy, Downtown Detroit has since recovered and has seen significant growth and development in recent years, with major influxes of businesses and renewed investment.
Today, about 5,300 residents live in Downtown Detroit, which includes a variety of residential styles, from historic homes to high-rises. The district also features a number of parks, including the greenspace along the newly revitalized Riverfront. Downtown is also home to some of Detroit's most popular attractions, including historic sites, the International Riverfront and the MGM Grand Detroit Casino and Resort.
West Vernor-Junction Historic District is a commercial historic district in Detroit, located along West Vernor Highway between Calvary and Lansing. The district is comprised of 44 buildings and 160 acres, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as of 2002.
The area got its start in the 1860s through the 1870s as a quiet farming community. But in the 1880s, the farmland began to be divided into residential parcels. Following construction of a church, a number of wood-framed commercial buildings, as well as a few early brick ones, were constructed throughout the 1880s and 1890s. The area is noteworthy as one of few examples of early wood-frame buildings in Detroit. West Vernor is considered to be one of the few commercial neighborhood districts to survive Detroit's economic problems during the Great Recession.
Development continued through the 1910s and 1920, when the nearby Ford River Rouge Complex was built, spurring even more interest in the neighborhood. As a commercial district, West Vernor is considered a walkable neighborhood, with ready access to a number of amenities.
About 2,758 residents call Detroit's Gold Coast neighborhood home. Located in Wayne County, the district sits east of the Detroit's Downtown.
The community offers a range of residence options, from 1920s historic luxury to modern high-rise living. Residents are drawn to the neighborhood because of its dense, urban lifestyle coupled with scenic river waterfront. The neighborhood is said to have unmatched vistas of the Detroit River, as well as Belle Isle, Lake St. Clair and Canada.
The middle- and high-rise residences standing along East Jefferson offer residents a variety of styles, square footage of living space and price ranges. Amenities vary, depending on the property, but many offer secure parking, access to the waterfront and incredible, scenic views. The neighborhood is home to Erma Henderson Park, which features an extensive walking path as well as a basketball court, soccer field and play area. Residents have easy access to the river's shoreline, making it one of Detroit's more walkable neighborhoods.
Midtown is found along Woodward Avenue, between Downtown to its south and New Center to its north.
Midtown was destroyed by the fire of 1805 and had to be platted and rebuilt. Development went slowly, however, and it wasn't until after the Civil War that the northern area of Woodward Avenue had been developed. By 1895, demand for housing grew, spurring construction of small apartment buildings.
Prior to World War I, the area began transforming to commercial properties. Beginning in the 1950s, the neighborhood saw demolition and rehabilitation of older buildings. By the 1990s, this practice had stopped and the focus turned to revitalization. The few single-family homes that remain are of Queen Anne and other historically significant architectural styles.
Midtown is home to the Art Center, Medical Center, Wayne State University Campus, Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Public Library. The neighborhood is also home to the Cultural Center Historic District, with eateries, galleries, attractions and nightlife venues among residential lofts and condos.
The city of Detroit has focused on revitalization and reinvestment into Downtown and other neighborhoods throughout the city in recent years, making driving in Detroit no longer mandatory in some areas. The result has been revitalized commercial areas, with greater accessibility to businesses and services. Often, these commercial districts are within very close proximity to residential areas, making for walkable neighborhoods, particularly near the city's center.
Some of the Detroit neighborhoods most easily accessible as a pedestrian are also among it oldest. Residents are often drawn to these neighborhoods not only for their walkability, but their historic architecture, tree-lined streets and proximity to the Downtown district. Other walkable Detroit neighborhoods are primarily commercial districts, which offer a lively restaurant scene, unique boutiques and arts and culture.