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Leveraging Data to Evaluate the Impact of Municipal Investments

by 
Bracha Arnold
 on 
June 14, 2023
Leveraging Data to Evaluate the Impact of Municipal Investments

City councils and municipalities are always looking for ways to make the most of their limited budgets – but it can often be difficult to efficiently allocate resources and choose the right projects to promote.

To illustrate the potential of data in evaluating the impact of municipal investments, we take a closer look at three cities, all with different paths towards local improvement projects, to see what the location analytics for these areas can tell us about each investment.

  1. Chandler Park, Detroit, Michigan: Non-Profit Organizations Spurring Change

The ambitious renovation and revitalization project at Chandler Park in Detroit began in 2015. The $45 million project, which was spearheaded by the non-profit organization Chandler Park Conservancy, seeks to transform the 200-acre park into an urban conservation campus which will offer educational, recreational, and conservation opportunities for the community. While the renovation is still underway, some of the phases have already been completed – including a skate park sponsored by Tony Hawk and an environmental education plaza

So far, the two projects seem to be attracting significantly more people to the park – between 2019 and 2023, the number of visitors to Chandler Park grew by 71.5%, respectively. Weekend visits to the park have grown as well – visits on Saturday and Sunday grew to 22.4% and 20.0% in 2022, while four years ago, those numbers stood at 16.8% and 17.7%, respectively. 

The success of the completed phases at Chandler Park demonstrates the transformative power of community-driven initiatives and the unique opportunities they can create for local communities.

  1. Wynwood, Miami: Private & Public Working Together

The Wynwood neighborhood in Miami is an example of how a successful partnership between grassroots movements and the private sector can drive neighborhood transformation that impacts their surrounding communities. Once a first stop for many immigrants to Florida, the area was slated to become a free-trade zone in the mid-90s to encourage business development; but that plan never materialized, and the neighborhood fell into disrepair.

Now, the emergence of the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor art installation driven by local artists who eventually collaborated with a major Miami-based developer, has sparked a revival that transformed the neighborhood. Today, Wynwood is a major attraction, boasting independent cafes, restaurants, and shops. And analyzing the foot traffic data in the area shows that Wynwood has seen a more significant retail recovery than the rest of Miami following COVID-19. While April 2023 retail visits in the city stood at 87.0% of April 2019 levels, Wynwood's visits were at 98.0%. 

The success and resilience of Wynwood serve as a powerful reminder of the potential of art-driven, community-oriented spaces to attract visitors and drive neighborhood development.

  1. San Pedro Creek Renovation, San Antonio, Texas: Federal Investment Driving Visits

The San Pedro Creek in San Antonio runs through the western edge of downtown San Antonio. Until 2016, the creek and surrounding land featured little more than abandoned lots and loose dirt – hardly enticing to visitors. Now, the area is in the midst of a $300 million development project, to be implemented in four stages. The project – which has received significant federal funding – aims to revitalize the downtown area by restoring the creek’s ecosystem and carving out spaces for the arts and culture

The project's full completion is scheduled for 2024, but phase one, which opened in October 2022, is already having a positive effect. Foot traffic data reveals an increase in visits to the creek since the projects' opening, with weekday visits showing the largest change in patterns, indicating a growing trend of the area becoming an everyday destination. The baseline change in monthly visits from October 2021 also shows a steady upward trend, with visits taking off as the winter months receded and warmer weather came to San Antonio. 

These early trends suggest that, while still underway, the project is creating increased interest in the area, a positive outcome for the city.

Final Thoughts

The success stories explored here demonstrate the transformative power of strategic investment in urban spaces. By leveraging data-driven insights, cities can make informed decisions, drive economic growth, and enhance the overall well-being of their communities. 

For more data-driven insights, visit placer.ai/blog. 

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