Using the Atlas of ReUrbanism: The Purpose and Power of the Factsheets

By Carson Hartmann posted 04-04-2017 15:46


The Atlas of ReUrbanism is a resource to help urban leaders and advocates better understand and leverage opportunities in American cities. Currently the Atlas consists of three pieces: a summary report with baseline information and comparative tables for 50 cities across the country, interactive maps for an increasing number of those cities, and “takeaway” factsheets with topline analysis for the cities with live maps.


What’s in a Factsheet?

In trying to tell the story of each city, the factsheets pair high-level information about that city—when it was established, how many people live there, how large its footprint is—with our unique spatial analysis and understanding of the performance of the built environment. The result is a document that quickly shows the location of High-Character areas, detailing how they perform compared to the Low-Character ones—and how each city performs compared to the 50-city average. Our hope is that the factsheets empower local leaders, advocates, and even the press to better understand the makeup of their cities and inspire smarter decision-making with existing resources. The key components of each sheet are: 

Envelope Statistics. The broadest statistics on the factsheets, these are meant to provide an instant understanding of how big the city is, how many people live there, and when it was established. Most of these data originate from the U.S. Census, while city establishment dates are sourced from city websites and can sometimes refer to the year a city was incorporated. 

Topline Takeaways. These three statistics best demonstrate how each city’s older, smaller, mixed-age neighborhoods outperform newer, larger ones. These stats will be different for each city, highlighting the unique value of its high-character areas—be it a more diverse population, a stronger local economy, or more affordable rental housing. Data in this section come primarily from products of the U.S. Census, including the American Community Survey, the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LEHD LODES), and the 2010 Decennial Census. Women- and minority-owned business data originate from Dun & Bradstreet.

Character Score Map. This is a key piece of each factsheet. Character Score is a methodology developed by the Green Lab use building age and size to find the older, diverse fabric that has proven to be valuable in urban areas. This score is a composite of three data points:

  • Median year built: Where are the oldest and newest buildings?
  • Diversity of building age: Where are the blocks with mixed old and new buildings?
  • Granularity of building size: How many buildings exist in a given space?

For each city, we overlay a grid of 200 x 200–meter squares and apportion our data to each square. The grid allows us to easily compare the built environment between cities and renders our data at a human scale because each grid square is around the size of a city block. High–Character Score areas appear on a gradient of red to yellow, whereas lower-scoring areas are on a gradient of blue. Data for the Character Score originate from parcel files assembled by local assessors’ offices.

Building and Preservation Facts. This section provides data on a city's buildings, including the total count, density, median age, and historic status. Count and age data for the table and pie chart are sourced from the local assessor's office. Local historic designation data come from local preservation offices, while data on national designation and federal historic tax credit projects come from the National Parks Service. These data points are compared to a 50-city average that includes all Atlas cities.

High v. Low Character Score. This table compares the performance of high– and low–Character Score grid squares in terms of:

  • Density and Diversity: population density, race and place of origin data, and housing patterns;
  • Inclusiveness: number of women- and minority-owned businesses and percentage of affordable housing units; and
  • Economic Vitality: jobs in small businesses, new businesses, and creative industries.

We organize data into these categories in order to best demonstrate the value of high-character areas. Measures represent the averages for that type of grid square (high versus low), unless otherwise indicated. Data for all three categories come from products of the U.S. Census, including the American Community Survey, LEHD LODES, and the 2010 Decennial. Women- and minority-owned business data originate from Dun & Bradstreet.

For a deeper dive into the different components of the factsheets, including an explanation of Character Score and spatial analysis, download this factsheet tutorial.

Where Are the Factsheets Going From Here?

Just as the Atlas will grow and evolve to include additional cities and additional data in future years, so will the factsheets evolve and see updates over time. Through June 2017 we will be adding more factsheets about those cities that were included in the summary report. If you believe that a data point on the factsheet about your city is inaccurate, please let us know by either tweeting to @presgreenlab or emailing me at chartmann[at]

We are exploring options for adding new and updated data and for making the static factsheet documents more interactive and dynamic. Please do share feedback, suggestions for new factsheet formats, or suggestions for additional cities to include in future editions of the Atlas. Happy exploring!

Carson Hartmann is the research analyst for the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab.  

#Technology #Atlas #ReUrbanism #data

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