According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.28 square miles (52.52 km2), of which 19.97 square miles (51.72 km2) is land and 0.31 square miles (0.80 km2) is water.
Pontiac is bounded by the city of Auburn Hills to the east and north, the city of Lake Angelus to the north, Waterford Township to the west, and Bloomfield Township to the south.
The former Pontiac Township included what are now the cities of Pontiac, Lake Angelus, and Auburn Hills. The township incorporated as the city of Auburn Hills in 1983. Although the township no longer exists as a civil entity, it is still used as a survey township for land use purposes.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $31,207, and the median income for a family was $36,391. Males had a median income of $31,961 versus $24,765 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,842. About 18.0% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.3% of those under age 18 and 15.7% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, there were 59,515 people, 22,220 households, and 13,365 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,980.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,150.7/km2). There were 27,084 housing units at an average density of 1,356.2 per square mile (523.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 34.4% White, 52.1% African American, 0.6% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 6.2% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.5% of the population.
There were 22,220 households of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 26.4% were married couples living together, 27.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.9% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.28.
The median age in the city was 33.4 years. 27.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.2% were from 25 to 44; 24.2% were from 45 to 64; and 9.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.1% male and 50.9% female.
Residents are zoned to the School District of the City of Pontiac. The district runs one main high school, Pontiac High School. Although the city population once supported two high schools, Pontiac Northern and Pontiac Central, by December 2008 administrators were making plans to consolidate the schools. Both were combined at the Pontiac Northern location in 2009. This combined high school is known as Pontiac High School. Among its programs is the International Technology Academy, a specialty program/school which requires a 3.0 GPA for admission.
The 2015-2016 Board of Education consists of the following: Brenda Carter - President, William Carrington - Vice President, Caroll Y. Turpin - Secretary, Karen L. Cain - Treasurer, Susan Loveland - Parliamentarian, April Hernandez - Trustee, and Sherman Williams II - Trustee. Kelley Y. Williams is the Superintendent
The district serves about 4,700 students.
Four charter schools operate in Pontiac; they are Pontiac Academy for Excellence (K-12), Arts and Technology Academy, Walton Charter, and Great Lakes Academy. Pontiac is also home to Notre Dame Preparatory High School, a private Catholic school located in the North East area of the city.
Early expeditions into the land north of Detroit described the area as having "extreme sterility and barrenness". Developments and exploration were soon to prove that report false.
The first European-American settlers arrived in what is now the city of Pontiac in 1818. Two years later the fledgling settlement was designated as the county seat for Oakland County. The Pontiac Company, consisting of 15 members and chaired by Solomon Sibley of Detroit, comprised the first landowners in Pontiac. Sibley, along with Stephen Mack and Shubael Conant, Pontiac Company members, also formed the partnership Mack, Conant & Sibley to serve to develop a town. Solomon and his wife Sarah Sibley largely financed construction of the first buildings. While Solomon was the first chair of the Pontiac Company, for two years Sarah Sibley was the most active as the go-between with settlers at Pontiac. Solomon Sibley was constantly traveling as a Territorial Congressman and later a Territorial Supreme Court judge.
In the 1820s Elizabeth Denison, an unmarried, free Black woman, worked for the Sibleys. They helped her buy land in Pontiac in 1825. Stephen Mack, agent for the Pontiac Company, signed the deed at the request of the Sibleys, conveying 48.5 acres to Elizabeth Denison. She is believed to be the first Black woman to purchase land in the new territory of Michigan.
In 1837 Pontiac became a village, the same year Michigan gained statehood. The town had been named after the noted Ottawa Indian war chief who had his headquarters in the area decades before during the resistance to European-American encroachment. Founded on the Clinton River, Pontiac was Michigan's first inland settlement. Rivers were critical to settlements, as transportation ways in addition to providing water and, later, power.
The village was incorporated by the legislature as a city in 1861. From the beginning, Pontiac's central location served it well. It attracted professional people, including doctors and lawyers, and soon became a center of industry. Woolen and grist mills made use of the Clinton River as a power source.
Abundant natural resources led to the establishment of several carriage manufacturing companies, all of which were thriving at the turn of the century. At that time, the first self-propelled vehicles were introduced. Pontiac quickly became a capital of the new automotive industry. Throughout the 1920s and 30's, Pontiac had tremendous growth in its population and size as tens of thousands of prospective autoworkers moved here from the South to work in its GM auto assembly plants at Pontiac Assembly. African Americans came in the Great Migration, seeking work, education, and the chance to vote.
As the small "horseless carriage" manufacturers became consolidated under the mantle of the General Motors Corporation, Pontiac grew as the industry grew, suffering the same setback as other cities during the Great Depression years of the 1930s. The first postwar years were a time of prosperity but the city changed as suburbs were developed and people commuted by car to work. The more established residents moved out to buy newer housing being built in the suburbs, draining off business and resulting in vacancies downtown.
In order to prevent flooding, the Clinton River was confined in concrete in downtown Pontiac in 1963.
In late 1966, Pontiac-born real estate developer A. Alfred Taubman tried to build a large-scale shopping mall on vacant downtown land (where the Phoenix Center now stands). It was unsuccessful. Pontiac resident C. Don Davidson and his University of Detroit architectural class created a more comprehensive plan for development to benefit the city and the entire region around it. In 1969, the city of Pontiac adopted the Pontiac Plan as the official plan for rebuilding the vacant area of the downtown district.
In 1968, Davidson overheard news that the Detroit Lions were seeking a new football stadium in Southeast Michigan. Professor Davidson and city leaders made a push to develop a new multi-purpose stadium, which was built and became known as the Silverdome. Construction began on the 80,000-seat stadium in 1972 and it opened in 1975 as the Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium.
This was a part of Davidson's vision for Pontiac. Besides becoming the new home stadium of the NFL's Detroit Lions, NBA's Detroit Pistons and USFL's Michigan Panthers, the arena hosted such events as the 1979 NBA All-Star Game, the 1982 Super Bowl XVI game between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, and four matches of soccer's 1994 World Cup.
Construction began in the 1970s on an urban renewal project known as the "Pontiac Plan". The initial phase of this plan included the Phoenix Center, three office buildings, a transportation center, and a high-rise residential complex. The remainder of the plan was never completed. The city has struggled with declining population since 1980, due to industrial restructuring, especially in the automotive industry.
In July 2012, Mayor Leon Jukowski and Emergency Financial Manager Louis Schimmel announced plans to demolish the Phoenix Center. Its vacancy rates were high, and the city did not want to continue its high maintenance costs. New thinking about downtown was to re-emphasize the street grid; the city wanted to reconnect Saginaw Street to the downtown area. Owners of the connecting Ottawa Towers filed an injunction, claiming the demolition would devalue their property and result in lost parking. In December 2012, a judge granted an injunction for the Ottawa Towers on an "expedited calendar" which prevented the demolition of the Phoenix Center for the time being.
In 2010, city leaders and business owners had launched "The Rise of The Phoenix" initiative. This plan was intended to attract businesses interested in downtown retail space. The applicants selected would be given free rent in exchange for multi-year leases (two years or more) as well as one year of free parking in city lots. Some 52 new businesses were recruited to locate in downtown Pontiac, bringing new life to the city. Plans for the development of mixed-use and loft flats in downtown were announced in September 2011 by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA). MEGA estimates the development could generate $20.4 million in new investment and create up to 107 permanent full-time jobs in downtown. The development was to be supported by a state tax break.
On January 26, 2012, West Construction Services began the renovation and restoration of the former Sears building for the Lafayette Place Lofts, the largest construction investment in Downtown Pontiac in approximately 30 years. The 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) project is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified residential and commercial mixed-use development: it will have 46 new urban rental lofts, a fresh food grocery store and café, and an Anytime Fitness center. Construction was completed during 2012 and the loft and market opened in December of that year. 10 West Lofts, another development in the area, will bring more residents to downtown Pontiac.
Regionally, the city was known for the Arts, Beats and Eats Festival, a widely attended summer festival featuring an art show, musical concert venues, and a sampling of food from numerous regional restaurants. In 2010, the festival was moved to nearby Royal Oak. The First Annual Scheme Cruise was held September 6, 2015, an event sponsored by the Scheme Street Battle League. The event combined rap battles, basketball competitions, and a car show. Pontiac officials are considering relocating the event to the downtown area of the city.
The city is at the north end of the famous Woodward Avenue which extends as a major boulevard into Detroit. It was originally lined with mansions and prestigious businesses. In the 1950s and 1960s it was popular with young people who would "cruise" and drag-race their hot-rods in the area. Pontiac participates in the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, an event celebrating Woodward's hot-rod history, stretching from Detroit to Pontiac. Downtown Pontiac's nightlife includes nightclubs and music venues such as Club Visions, Tonic, and The Crofoot.
The city hosts two nationally renowned haunted houses: The Realm of Darkness and Erebus. The Realm of Darkness has in previous years been chosen as America's Best Haunted House. Erebus held the world record from 2005-2009 for "Largest Haunted House;" it is 4 stories high.
Together with the automotive industry, Pontiac was an early location of movie making, with the Raleigh Michigan Studios, renamed as the Motown Motion Picture Studios. Scenes of the 2012 remake of the film Red Dawn were filmed in Pontiac and other Michigan locations, recreating Spokane, Washington. Additionally, downtown Pontiac in August 2012 was the filming site for the forthcoming tornado-themed disaster movie Black Sky. The 2013 fantasy adventure film Oz the Great and Powerful was filmed at Motown Motion Picture Studios. Transformers: Age of Extinction is the latest movie to be filmed within the studio, with the bulk of filming taking place in Pontiac.
Pontiac is home to the Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial. It is located within the Oakland County Government Complex off Telegraph Road.
Amtrak operates passenger service with its Wolverine from Pontiac to Chicago via Detroit and Battle Creek, Michigan. Service is three times daily, both arriving and departing.
Commuter rail service was once provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW) and later Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) from Pontiac to downtown Detroit. This service ended on October 17, 1983, after subsidies were discontinued. Efforts continue to restore such commuter service.
Class one freight rail service is provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW), which also operates a large classification yard in Pontiac serving the local auto industry. The Grand Trunk Western Railroad (reporting mark GTW) is an important subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway (CN). It constitutes the majority of CN's Chicago Division (which is part of CN's Southern Region). It operates in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, forming the CN mainline from Port Huron to Chicago, as well as serving Detroit and Toledo.
Oakland County International Airport serves the city and surrounding areas with commuter air service. When previously owned by the city, it was known as the Pontiac City Airport. But it is located outside the city in neighboring Waterford Township and not on land contiguous with Pontiac's city limits.
Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) operates local and regional bus transit.
The major thoroughfares in the city are: Woodward Avenue (M-1), Huron Street (M-59), and Telegraph Road (US 24). Portions of Woodward Avenue were once known as "Saginaw Street" and "Wide Track Drive" (the portion of "Wide Track Drive" that encircles the downtown business district is now known as the "Woodward Loop") I-75 provides a connection northwest to nearby Flint. Detroit is to the south.
BL I-75 runs through Pontiac.
US 24 ends north of Pontiac in at I-75. Southbound, US 24 serves suburban Detroit and Monroe before crossing into Ohio.
Bus. US 24 serves local business traffic through the city.
M-1 (Woodward Avenue) northbound loops around Pontiac's downtown district (now known as the "Woodward Loop", continuing it's loop back southbound as "Saginaw Street", then returning to the name of Woodward Avenue and routing directly to Downtown Detroit.
M-24 (Lapeer Road) southbound ends in Auburn Hills at I-75. Northbound, the highway connects to Lapeer. Note: M-24 does not intersect with US 24.
M-59 runs west to Howell and east to Utica and several other Detroit suburbs.
Governor Rick Snyder (R)
State Senator Jim Marleau (R) – 12th State Senate District
State Representative Tim Greimel (D) – 29th State House District
Senator Gary Peters (D)
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D)
Representative Brenda Lawrence (D) – 14th Congressional District
The Mayor of Pontiac is Dr. Deirdre Holloway Waterman, who was elected as Pontiac's first female mayor by more than 68% of the vote on November 5, 2013.
Mayor Waterman has long been active in civic affairs. At the time of her election, Waterman told the Oakland Press, "I’m elated that our message of a positive change for Pontiac was well-accepted by the citizens. Together, we rise." The ophthalmologist previously served as a commissioner to revise the city charter, and as chairwoman of the Pontiac Public Library Board. She was widowed after the death of her husband, the late William J. Waterman, judge in the 50th District Court.
Waterman won 3,996 votes — 68.25 percent — to incumbent Mayor Leon Jukowski’s 1,784. Jukowski, who served one term as mayor after being elected in November 2009, is an attorney who has dealt in real estate in downtown Pontiac. Waterman and the State of Michigan reached a power-sharing agreement after the city had been under state control for five years because of its financial problems. Waterman would have responsibility for a balanced 2015-16 budget for the City of Pontiac, among other areas.
From 2009 through 2013, Pontiac had been under the oversight of an Emergency Financial Manager appointed by the state government. The Emergency Manager was authorized to make day-to-day executive and financial municipal decisions. The position was not subject to the usual checks and balances, nor to election. The first and second managers, Fred Leeb and Michael Stampfler, were appointed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. The third manager was Louis Schimmel, who was appointed by Gov. Snyder.
In order to balance the budget, state-appointed emergency managers drastically revised labor union contracts with the city, sold off city assets such as parking meters, and privatized most public services. The Oakland County Sheriff's Office handles all police (saving $2 million a year) and nearby Waterford township has responsibility for fire protection (saving $3 million). Pontiac sold its water treatment plant for $55 million, and outsources garbage collection, animal control, vital records and street maintenance. Many people working in City Hall are employed by contractors. The city payroll has declined from 600 to 50 employees. The Silverdome Stadium, once valued at $22 million, was sold for $583,000. The emergency managers reduced the city's annual spending to $36 million from $57 million, and erased almost all of its long-term debt.
In August 2013, Schimmel resigned as Emergency Financial Manager. Schimmel now serves as part of the four-member Transition Advisory Board for the city. Other members of the board include Deputy Oakland County Executive Bob Daddow, Rochester Hills Finance Director Keith Sawdon, and Ed Karyzno, administrator of the Michigan Department of Treasury's Office of Financial Responsibility.
Elected officials have limited decision-making power; the City Council meets every week but cannot conduct any official business. The City Council President is Lee Jones and President Pro Tempore is Patrice Waterman. Public comment is permitted at the beginning of council meetings, but is limited to five minutes per citizen and requires a card submission before the meeting begins. The seven-member council is elected from single-member districts. District 1, which covers the southwest corner, is represented by Patrice Waterman; she was elected to her first term in 2009 over W. Charli Yarbro. District 2, which covers the central western part of the city, is represented by Don Woodward; he was elected to his first term in 2013. District 3, which covers the northwestern part of the city, is represented by Mary Pietila; she was elected to her first term in 2009 over now-School board member Sherman Williams II.
District 4, which covers the northern portion, is represented by Randy Carter; he was elected to his first term in 2009 and his second term in 2013 without opposition. District 6, which covers the central portion north of downtown, is represented by Doris Taylor-Burks; District 5, which covers the northeastern corner of the city, is represented by Mark Holland. District 7, which covers the southeastern corner, is represented by Kermit Williams. He was elected to his first term in 2009 without opposition, and his second term in 2013 against Mike McGuinnes.
The 2013 primary election took place on Tuesday, August 6. The 2013 general election was scheduled for Tuesday, November 5 for the election of mayor and all seven council district seats, as well as all six library board director positions, will be determined. At the January 10, 2013 Pontiac City Council meeting, Mayor Jukowski announced his intention to seek re-election as mayor. Other announced candidates for mayor are Pontiac News Editor R. Frank Russell, Library Board President Deirdre Waterman and City Councilman Donald Watkins. On April 30, 2013, resident Dubrae Newman filed paperwork to be a candidate for Council District 1 and incumbent George Williams filed paperwork to be a candidate for Council District 2. On May 1, 2013, resident Mike McGuinness, the former chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party, filed paperwork to be a candidate for Council District 7. The filing deadline for the 2013 municipal election was May 14, 2013.
The five candidates for mayor who competed in the August 6, 2013 primary for the top two placement are Jukowski, Waterman, Russell, Watkins and a last-minute filing of former city employee Eric A. Johnson. Deirdre Waterman placed first in the primary, followed by incumbent Jukowski; they both advance to the ballot for mayor in the general election. Watkins placed third, Russell fourth and Johnson fifth. Watkins has formally filed as a write-in candidate for mayor in the general election. In District 1, incumbent Patrice Waterman and challenger Dubrae Newman advance to November. However, Newman announced at a City Council meeting prior to the general election that he withdrew as an active candidate and is supporting Waterman's re-election; due to the withdrawal deadline having passed, his name remains on the general election ballot.
In District 2, incumbent George Williams and challengers Donald Woodward and Demar Byas will face off in the August 6 primary. The top two vote-getters advance to November. In District 3, incumbent Mary Pietila and challenger Colleen Kavanagh advance to November. In District 4, incumbent Randy Carter is unopposed. Yohannes Bolds had filed, but withdrew his name from the ballot. In District 5, open due to Councilman Watkins' mayoral bid, features candidates Sam Anderson, Jr., Mark Holland, Sr., and Joe McAllister in the August 6 primary. The top two vote-getters advance to November. In District 6, open due to Council President Lee Jones' decision not to seek a third term, features candidates Vanessa D. Coleman, Marnese Jackson Wilford, Doris Burks Taylor and Maicol Ivan Rivera-Torres in the August 6 primary. In District 7, incumbent Kermit Williams and challenger Mike McGuinness advance to November.
For Pontiac Library Board, nine candidates filed for the November 5, 2013 general election: Incumbents Joyce Allen, Roger Derby and Deirdre Waterman, as well as challengers Vernita Duvall, Juliene Dixon Jenkins, Ronnie Karpinski, Evelyn LeDuff, Rosie Richardson and Deveda Travis. The top six vote-getters will earn the four-year Library board director positions. After dropping out of the library board elections, Deirdre Waterman was elected Pontiac's first female mayor on November 5, 2013. Patrice Waterman, her niece, became mayor pro tem.
The East Campus of the Oakland County Service Center is located in Pontiac. It includes the county courthouse and jail for adults.Mark Bego, author, born in Pontiac
Jim Bundren, NFL player, born in Pontiac
Albert J. Campbell, U.S. Representative from Montana
Madonna Louise Ciccone, known mononymously as Madonna, singer and actress, lived in Pontiac during childhood
Pete Dexter, novelist, journalist and screenwriter, born in Pontiac
Thomas J. Drake, justice of Utah Territorial Supreme Court and third Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, died in Pontiac
Kirk Gibson, former Major League Baseball player and manager, born in Pontiac
Jonas Gray, NFL player, born in Pontiac
Laura Innes, actress, born in Pontiac
Elvin Jones, jazz drummer of the post-bop era, born in Pontiac
Hank Jones, musician, lived in Pontiac
Hayes Jones, Olympic hurdler, lived in Pontiac
Thad Jones, jazz musician, born in Pontiac
Jack Kevorkian, pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, author, composer and instrumentalist, born in Pontiac
Micki King, diver, Olympic gold medalist and 10-time national champion, U.S. Air Force colonel, born in Pontiac
Henry W. Lord, U.S. Congressman from Michigan
Tony Lucca, actor/singer and former Mouseketeer, born in Pontiac.
Clara McDaniel (born November 26, 1948, In Pontiac), blues singer and songwriter.
Derek Minor, rapper, born in Pontiac
Duane D. Pearsall, physicist and inventor
Howard "Howdy" Quicksell, musician, lived and died in Pontiac
Walker Russell, pro basketball player, born in Pontiac
Walker Russell, Jr., pro basketball player, born in Pontiac
Alfred Taubman, real estate developer, born in Pontiac
Wilma Vaught, U.S. Air Force brigadier general, born in Pontiac
The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Dfb"(Warm Summer Continental Climate).