University of Pittsburgh
June 6, 2010

Pitt's Interactive Database of Neighborhood Conditions and Stats Gaining Traction in Revitalizing Pittsburgh

Citizens, community organizers, and city planners who use Pitt's online Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System (PNCIS) will discuss its value in reducing blight, expanding services, and renewing communities at inaugural users conference June 11
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-Citizens, civic groups, and government entities working to further renew and reinvent Pittsburgh are increasingly turning to the University of Pittsburgh's interactive database of property and neighborhood conditions in their efforts to restore dilapidated homes, promote urban farming, and even help young artists find homes.

The Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System (PNCIS) provides a neighborhood-by-neighborhood, parcel-level snapshot of information intended to improve community planning and outreach, including crime and vacancy rates, housing market and foreclosure figures, tax delinquency, and election results. To recognize and discuss ways to enhance PNCIS' value in shaping Pittsburgh, those Pittsburghers who regularly use the database will gather with national experts in urban revitalization for the inaugural PNCIS Users Conference June 11 at 1p.m. in Pitt's University Club, 123 University Place, Oakland. The conference is open to the public.

The conference is cosponsored by Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR), which maintains the database, and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, a longtime PNCIS partner with UCSUR and the City of Pittsburgh. More information on PNCIS and the conference is available on the PNCIS Web site at www.pghnis.pitt.edu

Representatives from local organizations and agencies also will speak about PNCIS' contribution to projects ranging from forming block watches in the city's Homewood neighborhood to identifying areas of Pittsburgh in need of better access to banking services. A few of the reported uses of PNCIS follow.

North Side resident and urban farmer Jana Thompson uses PNCIS in cooperation with Grow Pittsburgh to review and help the city set urban agriculture codes. For instance, proposed regulations suggested a minimum lot size that maps from PNCIS show is larger than nearly half of the city's residential lots, which would effectively prohibit urban farming, she said.

Artist incubation researcher Courtney Ehrlichman of Carnegie Mellon University studies strategies to keep young, graduating artists in Pittsburgh, particularly by making it easier for them to own property in the neighborhoods they help revitalize. Ehrlichman is exploring a strategy to attract artists to Pittsburgh by creating neighborhood profiles based on PNCIS data about vacant and tax delinquent properties, as well as current property owners in the area.

"At the URA, we use PNCIS almost every day," said Lena Andrews, Planning and Development Specialist for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA). "One way is to help expand Pittsburgh's green space by using vacant land, vacant building, condemnation, code violations, and tax delinquency data to identify areas where blight can be parks and woodlands. Another is to measure the effectiveness of URA brownfield revitalization projects by tracking the nearby sales prices and building permit activity to see the result of large-scale projects."

Conference speakers from the national scene will talk about how stores of community data like PNCIS are influencing urban revitalization policy, research, and government programs.

Kathy Pettit, codirector of the Washington D.C.-based Urban Institute's National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, will discuss innovative uses of community information systems across the nation and their role in neighborhood development. Robert Renner from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Policy Development and Research will talk about the growing role of research at HUD, new neighborhood revitalization programs, and the implications for local communities and neighborhood information systems. Mike Schramm from Case Western Reserve University's Center for Urban Poverty and Community Development will recount how Case Western's data system was used to reduce foreclosures and help to stabilize communities affected by the 2009 foreclosure crisis in the Cleveland area.

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