By Constance C Bodurow, Calvin Creech, Alan Hoback, and Jordan Martin
Abstract: A team of researchers comprised of architects, urbanists, planners and civil engineers from Lawrence Technological University and the University of Detroit Mercy developed a value densification tool used primarily to evaluate density of resources and physical features within Southwest Detroit, Michigan. This community is a diverse and vibrant neighborhood that is currently transforming socially, physically and economically. This project – the Value Densification Community Mapping Project (VDCmp) – was developed to explore how aspects of the post-industrial city can be understood, communicated and leveraged in service of equity and sustainability and to use technology to reveal data about the city in order to convince community, political and economic leadership to embrace a broader interpretation of value. Building on an asset-based, community empowerment planning model, the research team is collaborating to create a unique “free-ware” GIS incorporating and merging components of Google Earth, Sketch Up and ERSI ArcGIS to model physical and social density and value in three dimensions. The resultant digital interface empowers the community through asset identification and creation of an accessible tool to assist in envisioning its environmental, social and economic future. The VDCmp digital interface is unique in that it models “social exchanges” in three dimensions and allows the user to overlay social and infrastructure layers with physical density. With funding from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the VDCmp and research team is engaging nonprofit groups in Southwest Detroit to determine how they can best utilize data and mapping in planning, design, development and evaluative tools. The focus of this work has been on creating a comprehensive tool that can support community design and development policy decisions. Community members have become active partners in evolving the digital interface as a tool for strategic planning at the agency/organization, coalition, city and regional levels. The active community members have either provided to the research team the self-generated data found to be significant to them (the stakeholders) or requested certain publicly available data sets to be incorporated in the interface. Significant geoprocessing using ArcGIS was used on these data sets (of various formats) in order to pre-process and evaluate the data for accuracy and quality assurance. These data were then exported to keyhole markup language (kml) or keyhole markup zip (kmz) files and the visualization of these data were developed in Google Earth, which included significant polygon and polyline extrusion (used to display multivariable attributes for single features). Sketch Up models were also used to display density of historic sites, green infrastructure, parking and other features. The team will also incorporate three dimensional network diagrams in GIS to display the interactions and relationships that residential households have with religious, cultural and commercial assets, among others. These techniques have allowed the community groups to visually identify over- or under-served resources, conflicting planning objectives, environmental health impacts, or areas of social inequality, with an end-goal of developing a dynamic, unified development and preservation strategy for the community. The VDCmp has evolved from a pilot project to an ever expanding collaborative initiative featuring multiple institutions, clients, stakeholders and geographies. The VDCmp has a tripartite nature. It is at once a Research Initiative; a Tool; and a Community Process, each requiring very different approaches to collaboration, deliverables and dissemination. Now developed, this framework may be replicated in other Detroit neighborhoods or across the region or country to further advance the concepts of Value Densification mapping.