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1.  Survey Guidance, Please!

Posted 07-12-2017 12:02

Kalamazoo, Michigan hopes to update its 2000 City-Wide survey nest year, using volunteers and software that is:

- Not expensive
- Easy to learn
- Generally compatible/importable with other survey software (state, federal, other)
- Is BS & A friendly, so data can be transferred to City property records easily (Local Government Software | Software for Municipalities | BS&A)

Can you tell us what YOU'VE used recently, and how it worked for you?


Pam O'Connor
Kalamazoo MI

2.  RE: Survey Guidance, Please!

Posted 07-12-2017 14:31
Hi Pamela,

This is a passion topic of mine so I apologize for the length:

1) What is the purpose of your survey? Are you looking to gather information for...local historic preservation planning, information sharing/historic resource management, other land use decisions (i.e. demolition/transportation planning), or National Register? That will dictate which software might be best.

a) if its local preservation planning - go with a software that allows you to create your own questions that relate to the elements of the built environment that matter to your local building stock. That could be building style, or occupancy, or sidewalk condition. That is what we used for ScoutMuncie (Home) in Muncie, Indiana - as we have very little integrity in the building stock left and it was more about finding where concentrations of occupied structures in good condition might be for planning purposes. RuskinArc also allows customized questions (see Miami Beach example Miami Design Preservation League: Historic Architecture Database: RuskinARC™)

b) If its information sharing - historic resource management, you might consider the Getty's Arches program used in SurveyLA (HPLA v1.0)

c) if its other land use decisions, like the Detroit Historic Resource Survey informing land bank decisions, they utilized LocalData which has now joined Loveland Technologies (LOVELAND - National parcel data, property ownership search and GIS made easy)

d) If its National Register, try the CRSurveyor App by the National Park Service. This surveying app is meant for in-depth (like 20 minutes per structure) surveying instead of a rapid-mobile surveying like ScoutMuncie (3 min per structure). You need to discuss with your SHPO office what they will and will not accept.

2) Using Volunteers. Are you going for trained architectural historians to volunteer for you like the Detroit Historic Resource Survey or neighborhood residents? You will need to create a training manual and train each volunteer, including walking through example properties with them. This also requires a quality control process, who is checking the entries to ensure the volunteer surveyors are answering the questions right? Are you doing this in real-time as the data comes in, or afterwards? Are you spot-checking or doing a certain percentage? Will volunteers where badges or t-shirts or have FAQ sheets to signify who they are and what they are doing?

3) Integrating the data into your city's property records could be tricky - make sure you talk with your GIS Director and others. Will this information be updated automatically or one large import into the property records system. Also make sure you consider what terms you are using and how those are interpreted by other disciplines. If the Fire Chief sees a building listed as "non-contributing" and its damaged in a fire they may interpret that as not important and it go can. How will you distinguish between locally designated and nationally designated (therefore one triggering a review process and the other not) in the system in a way that other disciplines can understand.

4) Find other partners who care about the built environment to join in. Can you get volunteers from the tree board if you add in a question about tree canopy. There are lots of other groups who have the same end goal of neighborhood revitalization that would love to gather data, can you add a question to your survey and help them out in exchange for support?

Briana P. Grosicki
Formerly of Muncie,IN now Boston,MA
Director of Research at PlaceEconomics
Board Member National Alliance of Preservation Commissions & Preservation Action

3.  RE: Survey Guidance, Please!

Posted 07-15-2017 14:09
Thanks, Briana, most helpful!

[Pam] O'Connor
Kalamazoo MI