In action

Rightsizing and Historic Preservation

PlaceEconomics teams up with University of Pennsylvania in Muncie, Indiana to help revive a rust-belt city and preserve historic landmarks.

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Collecting data that matters

Muncie, Indiana faces a problem seen in many post-industrial cities — abandoned and vacant properties. In March 2013, DC-based consulting group PlaceEconomics joined forces with the city government and a team of grad students from University of Pennsylvania to gather and analyze data useful for making tough decisions in revitalizing this city. As Muncie's government struggles to do more for their citizens with increasingly tightened budgets, new planning methods designed to reduce cost and increase quality of life are being used to change the future of this community.

738 historic buildings

Nearly a quarter of Muncie's population falls below the poverty line, (2010 census) and vacant properties present a serious issue to quality of life and economic growth of the city. Rightsizing is a new approach to redevelopment which involves understanding what buildings can be preserved and what may need to be demolished to resize outdated city infrastructure.

In order to make these analyses, the Muncie team organizers needed to gather a lot of new data. The team asked important questions like if there were buildings on the property, whether or not those properties were occupied, what condition the buildings were in, if a building had historic character, whether or not it had mixed use, and if these significant structures were part of neighborhood business districts.

"I loved getting immediate feedback that parcels had been surveyed — we could see the aerial view with completed parcels checked off."

Overall, 14 data collectors documented 4,286 lots in just 4 days, pinpointing which existing buildings had Landmark status and correlating that information to see if they were also part of a neighborhood business district. Ultimately this dataset allowed planners to make data-driven decisions quickly with site-specific indicators.

3,054 lots have buildings
1,232 are vacant

What they're saying

"My favorite aspect was the interactive layout of the application. The user interface was a smart, quick, and simple way to evaluate the homes."

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