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Fighting blight in Gary

Chicago's former Mayor, the City of Gary, and the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy fight blight with data.

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Fighting blight with data

Like many smaller American communities, Gary, Indiana experienced a drastic population decline that started in the 1960s. Today, the City has thousands of abandoned or near-abandoned buildings, and it can cost $15,000 for a single demolition.

To make a difference, the City needed hard data on the scope of the problem. Unfortunately, the best data available was out of date and said nothing about building condition.

67 volunteers

The Gary-Harris Initiative (GHI) was formed to help the city think through some of its most challenging problems. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, the City of Chicago's former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy joined forces — and they turned to LocalData for tools to help get the job done.

11,651 properties surveyed
2,000 acres covered


LocalData gave the team tools to quickly visualize and map the data, and entirely eliminated transcription. Volunteers and organizers could see results in real time, which kept teams coordinated, reduced errors, and increased efficency.

With just 67 volunteers, the team surveyed over 11,651 properties covering 2,000 acres across the city. Surveyors covered nearly 40 parcels per hour . The LocalData dashboard helped organizers undestand both the spatial concentration of vacancy and abandonment, target areas for demolition or deconstruction, and see where the city should concentrate efforts to board up distressed housing.

You can read more more about the larger planning project in the Chicago Tribune.

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