Montgomery launches high-tech, data-driven initiative to Pinpoint Abandoned Properties
“This is another innovative opportunity to leverage technology to better serve our residents and impact overall quality of life in our community,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said. “Like many of the tools and tactics in our Smart City strategy, this initiative will ensure we preserve finite resources while saving taxpayers’ dollars.”
City leaders unveiled BuildingBlocks during last week’s City Council Work Session. The program analyzes and integrates streams of data across multiple departments and sources into a single, comprehensive database identifying issues, like vacant and abandoned buildings. BuildingBlocks will complement City staff’s ongoing abatement efforts by maintaining geocoded reports that target issues related to blighted properties, include those with telltale warning signs of vacancy that may not yet be physically blighted. The City can then use this data to maintain a registry of vacant properties and prioritize those in need of attention, ease the strain on budgetary and personnel limitations and successfully abate more issues to potentially reinvigorate entire neighborhood blocks.
BuildingBlocks’ user-friendly interface consists of an interactive map depicting all of Montgomery’s 83,244 properties. Users can search, sort or filter properties based on the system’s data repository that ranges from owner information, active utility accounts, prior code violations, building permits, business licenses, nearby police or fire incidents and more. The program can match related ownership records and even suggest corporations that might be linked by common ownership. These features eliminate the need to identify the properties strictly through field investigation or complaint which often takes weeks of staff time to complete. Now, suspected blighted properties can be found more proactively, allowing the City to more quickly formulate strategies to hold owners accountable.
“Montgomery has been tabbed as a Smart City,” Montgomery City Services Director Chris Conway said. “To be ‘smart’ you need information – or intelligence – but you also need to apply this intelligence to craft practical solutions that yield resident-driven results. That’s what we have achieved with this and a range of other technological tools launched this year.”
Conway’s team identified approximately 2,000 likely vacant properties through the program by overlaying a filter of conditions associated with vacancy, like utility shut-offs in non-owner occupied residential homes. Public Works is the first department to pilot the program, but more departments are training now since it has the capacity to supplement a range of day-to-day functions.
BuildingBlocks is a product of Tolemi, a civic technology company partnering with local governments nationwide to enable data-driven policy and operations. Montgomery joins a growing number of cities throughout the Southeast using BuildingBlocks to strengthen neighborhoods and curb blight.
“We’re proud to partner with so many innovative communities in the region like Baton Rouge, Jackson, and Savannah,” remarked CEO Andrew Kieve. “Montgomery really exemplifies how the smart city transformation goes beyond broadband and street lights—it can also revitalize blocks and improve the lives of citizens in the most disinvested communities.”
For more on the City of Montgomery and its Smart City initiatives, visit montgomeryal.gov. For more on how Tolemi is helping cities turn data into action, visit www.tolemi.com. Watch the demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkzyNVgArzQ.