Searching for homes and vacant lots in Philly is about to get a whole lot easier with the launch of Atlas, a new online mapping tool that pools nearly every bit of information about one property into one place.
It’s a big and helpful step for the city’s open data initiative and everyday users who run the gamut from developers to historic preservationists “to anyone in community groups who want to understand what’s happening in their neighborhoods,” says Mark Wheeler, Philadelphia's chief geographic information officer and deputy CIO for Enterprise Data and Architecture.
Until now, this process hasn’t been easy for folks wanting to look up a property’s zoning appeals, crime statistics, or deed information. Says Wheeler, “Depending on the question you’re asking related to what’s happening at an address, you could use six apps, you could use up to a dozen applications.”
Atlas now compiles everything one needs to know about a single address into one comprehensive database, including deed information, permits, 311 data, crime statistics, zoning appeals, and the registered community organization (RCO) that’s associated with that property. It also includes historic imagery of the site, dating as far back as 1860.
Atlas is the brainchild of the Office of Innovation and Technology, a city department that has been leading efforts to promote Philly’s open data and Smart City initiatives. Creating this tool first made the most sense to the city, since research shows that approximately 90 percent of city data has a location component, says Wheeler.
Plus, the office found that a majority of users come to city websites looking for property data.
In 2014, the department started realizing that the city could use an all-in-one-tool, and the Atlas team spent the last year creating the tool. Furthermore, it’s designed as a framework that any city department will be able to use on their own site. CleanPHL.org, for example, has already adopted the tool on its on site.
The property data will be updated as regularly as possible, says Wheeler, though it could range anywhere from two days to a week depending on what city department is responsible for the data. 311 information would likely be updated more instantly than, say, property sales.
Atlas officially launches next week at the website atlas.phila.gov. On Tuesday, November 14 there will be an open house at the Municipal Services Building (1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard) from 5 to 7 p.m., where the public can learn how to use the online tool.