In my 2013 CRE tech predictions, I suggested that CRE Data Visualization would made major advancements in 2013. So, of course, I am going to point out examples to make myself look smart.... One of the best examples of this HUGE opportunity is 2nd City Zoning.
In essence, the map allows residents to answer the question, “what can I build on this property?” Punch in an address to discover how a building is zoned, and see a human-readable description (written by us!) of what that actually means. (For instance, I live in an “RT-4” district, which typically features “two-flats, townhouses, low-density apartment buildings, single-family homes.”)
On top of the map, we’ve also distilled much of the zoning ordinance into a beginner-friendly cheat sheet, so residents can dig into the particulars of their property’s land use and density rules.
These rules are what actually limit how dense a building can be and what you can do with it. We’ve done our best to cut through the legalese and explain how they work. Ever wondered what a building’s FAR is? Enlightenment awaits.
By the way, the app’s homage to SimCity is critical to making zoning digestible to humans — for many, the video game is the only cultural touchstone people have for zoning.
Besides looking up a specific property, you can also use the app to explore Chicago’s zoning patterns and learn why the city’s urban landscape looks the way it does. That drive-through bank slicing through the walkable storefronts? The alderman carved out a tiny zoning district for that property. That industrial corridor butting up against downtown lofts and boutiques? There’s a planned manufacturing district keeping it around. That sudden drop-off in high-rise apartments? Anti-development NIMBYs downzoned the adjacent block.
For anyone who has had to peck and click their way around any Municipality's GIS mapping and planning, you will understand how nice a decent Google Map can be.
2nd City Zoning is part of Open City. Open City is a group of volunteers that create apps with open data to improve transparency and citizen understanding of our government.
A couple other KILLER visualization apps created by OpenCity.org include ChicagoBuildings.org, a vacant and abandoned building locator map, and HowsBusinessChicago.org a dashboard of economic indicators for the Chicago area.