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LOVELAND Technologies previews Motor City Mapping

Evolution. It's becoming an increasingly important word in describing the Motor City Mapping project.

The ambitious initiative originally set out to produce a comprehensive list of all of Detroit's blighted properties. It quickly became an effort to catalogue each of the Motor City’s 400,000 properties. The database will contain pictures and the condition of each property in Detroit, regardless of whether it is blighted or in pristine shape, contains a building or is vacant land.

The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force sent 100 surveyors and 50 drivers out to start taking pictures and assessing the condition of each of the city’s properties. They are passing the halfway mark (200,000 properties) this week. That information is compiled and sorted by teams from Data Driven Detroit and LOVELAND Technologies in TechTown where they are being catalogued into a digital database that will be made public.

"It's WhyDontWeOwnThis-like in that it's an individual parcel map,” says Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of LOVELAND Technologies. "It's kind of like a coloring book. When you survey something it goes from red to green in the microhood."

Paffendorf and his team launched WhyDontWeOwnThis.com a few years ago as a way to sort through the thousands of tax foreclosed properties in Detroit. The website provided basic information about the properties, such as year built and building size, while tracking the tax auction bidding and sales.

Motor City Mapping’s website promises to be similar, providing a picture of the property and an assessment of its condition. Other information, such as ownership and tax status, might also be available further down the line. Paffendorf makes sure to reinforce the idea that the creation of the website is sill in the development stage and the concept of what it will provide is evolving.

Paffendorf says he wants it to serve as "an overall picture of occupancy in the city." However, ensuring that it stays up to date and accurate means it will have a public interaction component. Local residents and stakeholders will have the ability to further elaborate on the condition of property and even update the property's photo.

"This is sort of the people’s property catalogue," Paffendorf says. "It recognizes that there is only so much information the city can collect."

That means if a property devolves from occupied to abandoned or fire damaged, the community will be able to track it or even be given a more comprehensive depiction of its condition than the original surveying team. On the other side of the coin, people who improve property will be able to update the website’s information to reflect that.

"It also records when things get better as well," Paffendorf says.

Paffendorf expects the survey work will finish up in February as long as the weather doesn’t get too extreme. Surveying teams were kept at bay in recent days because of the recent large snowfall and subzero temperatures. Paffendorf declined to estimate how long it will take to get Motor City Mapping’s website up and running because the development process is still evolving.

"We're still up to our eyeballs trying to get this survey done," Paffendorf says.

LOVELAND Technologies has grown its team to seven people over the last year, including three recent hires. The new hires include one software developer and two community planners. It is also looking to hire one more software developer.

Source: Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of LOVELAND Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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