The UG Launches S.O.A.R. Dashboard to Improve Appearance, Communication, and Safety

On January 25, the Unified Government (UG) of Wyandotte County / Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) launched the SOAR Dashboard, an interactive, data-driven resource now accessible to residents in KCK. The main purpose of the dashboard is to track progress and communicate about the overall appearance and safety of the region in alignment with the Stabilization, Occupation, and Revitalization (S.O.A.R.) initiative.

The dashboard was built by mySidewalk, a Kansas City-based city intelligence software company. mySidewalk worked with the UG hand-in-hand to create a centralized location for all S.O.A.R.-related data making it easier for staff to track quarterly progress on goals; provide context with visualized data, and tell an engaging story of progress about S.O.A.R. programs.

S.O.A.R. is a 5-year plan to confront some of the most pervasive challenges in the appearance, communication, and safety within KCK neighborhoods. The S.O.A.R. effort began in January 2016 with staff from across the UG meeting to discuss property maintenance, vacant and abandoned properties, concerns of safety, and obstacles and challenges facing staff in improving the appearance and safety of the community.

From those discussions, staff determined that more robust data collection and sharing was needed to track, understand, and address these community concerns. There was also a significant desire to enhance communications with residents and businesses related to property maintenance and safety programs, as well as a need to enhance the processes for prompt response to these issues and concerns from the community.

Throughout 2016, staff researched the impact that poorly maintained properties have on neighborhoods and identified ways to address these challenges. They discovered a significant correlation between vacant, abandoned and poorly maintained properties and their impact on resale values within neighborhoods. These properties also have a negative impact on the feeling of safety in the community. The Mayor and Commission requested staff put together a comprehensive plan to confront these challenges.

Staff presented 2017 goals for S.O.A.R. to the Commission in January 2017. The three areas of focus are appearance, communication, and safety. These focus areas link directly to the feedback collected from residents in the 2016 Resident Satisfaction Survey. Additionally, these areas of focus align with the Mayor and Commission’s new Strategic Plan that places major emphasis on allocating UG resources to increasing property maintenance and the feeling of safety throughout the community.

In summer 2017, prior to launching the dashboard, the UG worked closely with mySidewalk to blend their citizen survey and real estate data with other relevant datasets provided by mySidewalk for deeper insight. By doing this, they were able to find locations in the city affected or at-risk of blight; discover factors contributing to blight, and visualize those results via shareable charts and interactive maps. The results of this analysis were used to create the S.O.A.R. Dashboard.

“We are thrilled to be working alongside such a motivated and talented group of civic leaders. The progress they’ve made on the S.O.A.R. initiative and the steps they are taking to improve their community—a community right in our backyard—using the new dashboard is a national model. We’re proud to be a part of this project and look forward to continuing our partnership with the Unified Government,” said Stephen Hardy, CEO at mySidewalk.

The main goal of the S.O.A.R. initiative outlined on the dashboard is very clear: By 2021, the UG will reach 10,000 property improvements. Additional key initiatives of S.O.A.R. put in place to meet that goal are also outlined on the dashboard, including things like reach a total of 4,000 individual property improvements by 2019; develop an ongoing communication plan related to vacant housing to increase safety in neighborhoods; and work with Planning, Land Bank, and NRC to formalize the handling of endangered structures in historic districts.

The S.O.A.R. Dashboard provides a clear and transparent portal for county and city leaders to improve and innovate alongside residents in Kansas City, Kansas. Here, residents and UG staff can track progress related to property improvements and learn more about property maintenance in the region using visualized, mapped data that’s easy to understand. For example, do you know where the next round of demolitions will occur in the county? A map of parcels on the Demolition List under the Property Maintenance will show you—and provide more context.

“The Unified Government What Works Cities team is proud to release the SOAR Dashboard that showcases to the community what is being done to address concerns about their quality of life in Kansas City, KS and Wyandotte County,” says Assistant County Administrator, Melissa Sieben. “It also provides a detailed look at what we are working in 2018 as we continue to SOAR!”

The S.O.A.R. Dashboard is now live and will be updated quarterly. To see the SOAR dashboard and learn more about the initiative, visit the link below.

See the S.O.A.R. Dashboard here. About mySidewalk:

mySidewalk is a city intelligence tool that helps analysts track, analyze, and communicate progress on department and community-wide goals. Their mission is to empower city leaders and the public with the most complete, clear, and real-time understanding of community data so they can improve and innovate together. You work hard for your data. What’s it doing for you? To learn more, visit the mySidewalk home page.