This is cool and sobering at the same time. It’s a short clip – just twelve seconds – but it covers 32 years of Metro Detroit history and development from space

It’s part of a larger project called Google Timelapse, where you can view pretty much anywhere over the timespan from 1984-2015. Google, using their Earth Engine, combined over 5 million satellite images acquired over the past three decades by five different satellites.

There are a lot of changes you can see. You can also play with the timeline yourself, and we’ve embedded also timeline below for you to to tell a deeper story. But first the easy to spot changes:

  • The addition of a paddock on Belle Isle for the Grand Prix
  • The expansion of the plaza around the Ambassador Bridge
  • The expansion of the Jefferson Assembly plant on the east side
  • The Davison getting re-done (here’s more history of the Davison expressway)
  • The demolition of Tiger Stadium and the rise of Comerica Park and Ford Field
  • The expansion of City Airport

But there’s more to this story that the video they made can tell us.

Being the geeky crew we are, we decided to make a custom tour that goes from Detroit (where the video is focused) up to see the construction of I-696 west of Woodward, to the explosion of growth in Macomb County, then across Oakland County to see that to Novi. We embedded it as a Youtube as the full tour isn’t viewable on mobile devices, and we know most of you read us on phones and tablets.

It’s interesting to see how our region sprawled. And yes, we specifically mean sprawl because statistically, what happened was not more development to match population, but spreading out of the population our region already had.

In fact, from 1980-2010, the Detroit metro region actually lost population while we continued to build new developments. This emptied out first the city of Detroit and now inner ring suburbs. We went from 4,387,783 people in 1980 to 4,296,250 in 2010. That is sprawl despite what any story politicians want to try and sell you.

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