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Providing ArcGIS Server Support to a Non Profit Organization in New Orleans, LA

Project Update – August 2011 Program Update submitted by Michelle M. Thompson, PhD and WhoData Program Manager on 19 August 2011:

– The WhoData website exceeded 1 million unique hits by June 2011. The site was opened in February 2011.

– We have added the Central City survey data (4,000 parcels) to the WhoData website during the week of 15 August 2011.

– Michelle Thompson presented an update on WhoData as the keynote speaker at the URISA-NENA Addressing Conference in New Orleans, LA on August 16, 2011. The presentation will be on the URISA website in later Fall:

– In collaboration with neighborhood groups, residents and volunteers, the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) and the University of New Orleans (UNO) pooled their resources to undertake the task of surveying the 1.63 square mile Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, LA this July and August. As part of the initiative inspired by US Senator Mary Landrieu, Raise Up the Lower 9th Ward (RUL9W) has involved to assist volunteers with the survey process.  The Whodata team has trained trainers and volunteers on how to survey land uses, read a parcel map, determine characteristics of blight, identify housing and commercial occupancy and recognize other built environment information that a community requires when making decisions for future needs and growth. We want to send out special ‘thank you’ to the volunteers from who endured the heat and rain, at times, to survey the Lower 9th Ward. Ms. Sarah Green (Project Homecoming) and Ms. Devon McGuinness were the WhoData field project managers for this endeavor.Whodata has managed the data entry process by utilizing University of New Orleans IT and volunteers to enable consistent and predictable data entry platform which will eventually be geocoded and uploaded onto the web map for public viewing, research, analysis and map making. We would not have been able to do this work without the assistance of GISCorps ( Rafael Ferraro was the site programmer for the pilot site. Smitha Peethambaram is working on version 2.0 this fall.

– The WhoData website is periodically updated with maps created by Brian Baldwin (3Amigos). For program background and contact information see:

Project Update – February 2011

After months of hard work by many organizations and stakeholders, the website was launched (Press Release). The following update/report was provided by UNO-PLUS/NHS representatives. UNO-PLUS/NHS recently requested a second volunteer (Job Description) and the recruitment for the new volunteer is in progress.

A Collaborative Property Mapping Application for New Orleans

As New Orleans continues to recover and rebuild, not only from Katrina but from decades of disinvestment, neighborhood and community development organizations have been critical to the city’s success. Many groups have taken it upon themselves to track and measure the progress of their own neighborhoods by collecting property condition information. empowers organizations throughout New Orleans by providing them a platform to map and analyze the information they collect on properties in their area. This online mapping tool allows residents to assess their own neighborhoods, highlight properties that show indicators of blight, create their own maps and property lists, and share this information with the public. Residents, volunteers and organizations can receive training on how to collect property condition information using a standard survey format. is free and open to any organization that wishes to participate. As of January 2011, participating organizations include:

  • Associated Neighborhood Development
  • Broadmoor Improvement Association
  • Faubourg Lafayette Neighborhood Association
  • Gentilly Terrace & Gardens Improvement Association
  • Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans
  • New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative
  • Project Homecoming
  • The Phoenix of New Orleans
  • The University of New Orleans, Dept of Planning & Urban Studies was developed by the University of New Orleans Department of Planning & Urban Studies, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, and the Regional Planning Commission. The site will continue to be updated and improved as participation grows. To learn more about and how you and your neighborhood can get involved, contact Dr. Michelle Thompson at: or David Lessinger at:

Project Update – October 2010

Outlined below is the summary of an innovative Community-University Partnership that is using geographic information systems technology to educate, empower and increase access to community and public data for economic and community development.

The ‘’ website has continued to expand with new functionality and is being refined for ‘live’ testing with our Project Partners. In response to both internal and external project reviews, the following are the recent programming updates:

1. Added/Updated the boundaries for all planning districts, council districts, neighborhoods, and census tracts.  Additionally, users can use these boundaries to limit their searching and querying to specific areas within New Orleans.

2. Added a new layer that shows the current occupancy status of all properties.

3. Added advanced date filtering capabilities to the Query Builder.

4. Many other cosmetic and “behind-the-scenes” adjustments to improve overall usability.

We are in the process adding a new Community Partner who will aid in testing the data upload procedure.  We expect to refine the ‘how to’ and ‘help’ functions in the next phase.  We have demonstrated the beta site with the City of New Orleans Mayors Office and Office of Technology, as well as, the City Planning Office and other potential community partners. We expect their input to be valuable in addressing the concerns of transparency and expanding data resources desired by the City’s ‘Community Partnership Program’ initiative.

Project Background

In October 2009, Dr. Michelle Thompson, an Assistant Professor at the University of New Orleans – Department of Planning & Urban Studies (UNO-PLUS) contacted GISCorps and sought the assistance of an ArcGIS Server Programmer to develop a community-university pilot project to develop a community data information system using internet mapping services.

David Lessinger of the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans (NHS); a non-profit organization in New Orleans, Louisiana, was interested in creating a dynamic web site to share data and build surveying capacity in other neighborhoods. Following a thorough search, Rafael Ferraro, a GIS Programmer with Science Application International Corporation (SAIC)  in Virginia, was selected for this project and is now working with a team of experts from NHS and UNO-PLUS.

“The University of New Orleans & Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans Mapping Initiative” (UNMI)  is a community-university partnership that initially developed to move the concept of shared data sets to integrated data systems using internet mapping system (IMS) technology. The motivation, goals and partners involved in this pilot project are explained on their Website. The UNMI has expanded the initial goal of the pilot from a single organization to new partners (below) that will help test the IMS functionality, assist in development of training guides for future participants, establish and implement data survey/maintenance standards, and increase collaborative data sharing between multiple community based organizations in New Orleans.

Project Data

One of the challenges in creating an integrated site has been to obtain permissions to use organization survey data and create a data conversion methodology to standardize the neighborhood survey format without creating unintentional errors. With the exception of NHS, the project partners have been delayed in providing baseline data. However, NHS has provided time series neighborhood condition data that is now being uploaded into the IMS.

Another goal of the UNMI is to create a way to seamlessly integrate city, regional and state spatial data and use Federal Geographic Data Committee standards within the IMS. With the aid of the Regional Planning Commission, the most recent imagery obtained from a 2009 flyover is part of the baseline program data. Users will have the option of identifying properties using a street, imagery or hybrid view.

Project and IMS Website

Crucial information about the current conditions of property – parcel-level data about what houses are vacant, occupied or under construction – which would inform residents, policy makers and developers does not exist for most neighborhoods. The IMS website,, will address this challenge by providing technical assistance to residents and neighborhood groups to survey and map the property in their neighborhood and give them a simple but elegant web site to use and share this information.

UNO-PLUS is conducting a study on the condition of the Louisiana Recovery Authority ‘Option 1’ properties. Owners of these properties received up to $150,000 to rehabilitate and occupy the property after Hurricane Katrina. A sample of the 30,000 Option 1 properties (2,308) is in the process of evaluation. will house part of this dataset to test the functionality of hyperlinked images with the survey data to allow for property queries of potential blight within the City of New Orleans.

Project Partners:

The project coordinators remain the University of New Orleans/Department of Planning & Urban studies and the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans.  Data sharing partners include Broadmoor Improvement Association, Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, and New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative. The Regional Planning Commission has also agreed to lend technical support and public data sources for this project.

In order to avoid the concern of having critical recovery data exposed, the site will have restricted access to some areas of the website. Non-profit project partners will be able to directly upload their data using a secure interface so that timely, current and self-managed data input can be maintained. Training on how to maintain a high level of quality assurance/quality control is a part of the program management strategy for existing and future data partners.

The website will be active in September 2010. We will announce when the live application will be available on the UNMI and GISCorps websites.  While the IMS site is under construction, the URL will point back to the UNMI website located at

For questions, you can contact Dr.  Thompson at:  and Rafael Ferraro at:

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