Northeast Times

Neighborhood demographics: clear like never before

A screen­shot of the Cul­tureB­locks tool, with a cer­tain area of the city iden­ti­fied. See bot­tom of story for River Wards’ data. FROM CUL­TUREB­LOCKS

Thanks to the new tool Cul­tureB­locks, the pub­lic can see the spe­cif­ics of any city area, es­pe­cially as they re­late to cre­ativ­ity and the arts. The tool could help ‘lever­age cul­tur­al activ­ity in­to neigh­bor­hood re­vital­iz­a­tion.’ The River Wards, then, could see in­creased as­sist­ance to the arts and cul­ture com­munity.

Ed­it­or’s note: see bot­tom of story for data spe­cif­ic to each River Wards neigh­bor­hood.

The River Wards are see­ing spots — or rather, dots.

Thanks to a new on­line tool, Cul­tureB­locks, any­one in­ter­ested in the ‘cul­tur­al as­sets’ — arts non­profits, cul­tur­al busi­nesses, pub­lic art­works — of Phil­adelphia neigh­bor­hoods can get a clear pic­ture of just how many as­sets there are in any giv­en area of the city. On the Cul­tureB­locks tool, these as­sets are rep­res­en­ted by dots on maps.

Per­haps to no sur­prise, the River Wards’ maps are ab­so­lutely filled with dots.

The tool also shows data on things like the race, in­come, age and even edu­ca­tion of a neigh­bor­hood’s res­id­ents. Cul­tureB­locks is a ver­it­able one-stop shop for com­pre­hens­ive data about any giv­en neigh­bor­hood, ZIP code or spe­cific­ally defined area in the city.

De­veloped by sev­er­al city agen­cies, Cul­tueBlocks is grants-sup­por­ted and free to the pub­lic. Its data comes largely from the So­cial Im­pact of the Arts Pro­ject, which has been col­lect­ing data for over 15 years.

What does this mean for the River Wards? The area as a whole, one Cul­tureB­locks de­veloper said, has be­come a hub of arts and cul­ture-based en­ter­prises. This could lead to in­vestors’ in­terest in these com­munit­ies.

“Any­body mak­ing in­vest­ments can and would be us­ing this tool to make bet­ter in­vest­ment de­cisions. It helps people un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing in com­munit­ies,” said Moira M. Baylson, deputy cul­tur­al of­ficer for the city’s Of­fice of Arts, Cul­ture and the Cre­at­ive Eco­nomy, a Cul­tureB­locks de­veloper.

This could lead, she said, to funds be­ing channeled in­to arts or­gan­iz­a­tions in neigh­bor­hoods like the River Wards.

Baylson said there is “ab­so­lutely” already a spread of arts and cul­ture hap­pen­ing along the River Wards.

“An of­fice like mine knows what’s hap­pen­ing [there],” she said. “There’s this cre­at­ive buzz. Cer­tainly if there’s a young artist or cre­at­ive per­son in­ter­ested in mov­ing, they’d be able to see where there’s oth­er cre­at­ive busi­nesses.”

What about neigh­bor­hoods that lack an abund­ance of cre­at­ive en­ter­prises?

“Every­one ap­proaches it dif­fer­ently — some people want to be where oth­er [cre­at­ive] busi­nesses are. An­oth­er would see a neigh­bor­hood with a lack of en­ter­prises and say ‘there’s an op­por­tun­ity here,’” Baylson said.  “We want to identi­fy areas of the city where there might be a lot of young people and res­id­ent artists [liv­ing and work­ing], but not a lot of pro­grams.”

Shanta Schachter, deputy dir­ect­or of the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, said NK­CDC has ex­per­i­mented with Cul­tureB­locks a bit already.

“Identi­fy­ing areas where audi­ence par­ti­cip­a­tion is low [one of Cul­tureB­locks’ as­sets is “cul­tur­al par­ti­cip­a­tion per 1,000 house­holds”] helps us un­der­stand gaps in con­nect­ing valu­able arts and cul­tur­al re­sources,” Schachter said. “This is par­tic­u­larly im­port­ant in low-in­come areas that may lack re­sources.”

On the site, a user can ex­plore an area in a vari­ety of ways— by en­ter­ing an ad­dress or ZIP code, a neigh­bor­hood name, a coun­cil or plan­ning dis­trict or even a school catch­ment area. Users can fil­ter what they want to search for: cul­tur­al re­sources, arts-re­lated in­vest­ments, or city re­sources, along with “people” data like eth­ni­city or age.

Each ZIP code or neigh­bor­hood has a “pro­file” as well. You can se­lect, for ex­ample, the 19125 ZIP code or the “Port Rich­mond” neigh­bor­hood.

What defines a “neigh­bor­hood” may be up for some de­bate — search by neigh­bor­hood for “North­ern Liber­ties,” for ex­ample, and the map out­lines an area far dif­fer­ent from what the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­ation defines as its bound­ar­ies.

The good news is, a user can draw a cus­tom area on the map and see the points that fall with­in whatever area is con­sidered the neigh­bor­hood. That’s what Star did — see be­low for some of the River Wards’ cul­tur­al data.

“As an or­gan­iz­a­tion work­ing in these com­munit­ies, it’s im­port­ant to un­der­stand how area needs are shift­ing based on these demo­graph­ics,” Schachter said.

All in all, the River Wards are a col­lec­tion of neigh­bor­hoods, it would seem, that look pretty good on a map of grow­ing arts and cul­tur­al activ­ity.

“Cul­tureB­locks can help people see the strength of their neigh­bor­hood,” Baylson said. “Neigh­bor­hoods that have cul­tur­al activ­ity and are eth­nic­ally di­verse are stronger com­munit­ies.”

HOW DO THE RIVER WARDS’ ‘CUL­TUR­AL AS­SETS’ STACK UP?

Un­der the neigh­bor­hood “pro­file” tab on the Cul­tureB­locks web­site, Star used the “draw a cus­tom area” tool to see what Cul­tureB­locks lists as “cul­tur­al as­sets” in each River Wards neigh­bor­hood.

Some of Cul­tureB­locks’ defined “as­sets” are not on this list; vis­it cul­tureb­locks.com/tool.html to see it all, plus spe­cif­ic de­scrip­tions of what these as­sets are. Star defined each neigh­bor­hood by the bound­ar­ies of non-over­lap­ping neigh­bor­hood civic as­so­ci­ations.

Fishtown [FNA bound­ar­ies]:
Non­profit Arts and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions: 17
Cul­tur­al Busi­nesses: 46
Pub­lic Art: 4
Art Gal­ler­ies: 7
Cul­tur­al Events (Per­mits): 3

North­ern Liber­ties [NLNA bound­ar­ies]:
Non­profit Arts and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions: 18
Cul­tur­al Busi­nesses: 82
Pub­lic Art: 11
Art Gal­ler­ies: 8
Cul­tur­al Events (Per­mits): 5

East Kens­ing­ton [EKNA bound­ar­ies]:
Non­profit Arts and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions: 12
Cul­tur­al Busi­nesses: 15
Pub­lic Art: 0
Art Gal­ler­ies: 6
Cul­tur­al Events (Per­mits): 1

Old Rich­mond [ORCA bound­ar­ies]:
Non­profit Arts and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions: 8
Cul­tur­al Busi­nesses: 10
Pub­lic Art: 0
Art Gal­ler­ies: 1
Cul­tur­al Events (Per­mits): 1

Port Rich­mond [PRO­PAC bound­ar­ies]:
Non­profit Arts and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions: 13
Cul­tur­al Busi­nesses: 20
Pub­lic Art: 3
Art Gal­ler­ies: 0
Cul­tur­al Events (Per­mits): 1

Brides­burg [BCA bound­ar­ies]:
Non­profit Arts and Cul­tur­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions: 7
Cul­tur­al Busi­nesses: 8
Pub­lic Art: 2
Art Gal­ler­ies: 0
Cul­tur­al Events (Per­mits): 0

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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