Neighborhood demographics: clear like never before

A screenshot of the CultureBlocks tool, with a certain area of the city identified. See bottom of story for River Wards’ data. FROM CULTUREBLOCKS

Thanks to the new tool CultureBlocks, the public can see the specifics of any city area, especially as they relate to creativity and the arts. The tool could help ‘leverage cultural activity into neighborhood revitalization.’ The River Wards, then, could see increased assistance to the arts and culture community.

Editor’s note: see bottom of story for data specific to each River Wards neighborhood.

The River Wards are seeing spots — or rather, dots.

Thanks to a new online tool, CultureBlocks, anyone interested in the ‘cultural assets’ — arts nonprofits, cultural businesses, public artworks — of Philadelphia neighborhoods can get a clear picture of just how many assets there are in any given area of the city. On the CultureBlocks tool, these assets are represented by dots on maps.

Perhaps to no surprise, the River Wards’ maps are absolutely filled with dots.

The tool also shows data on things like the race, income, age and even education of a neighborhood’s residents. CultureBlocks is a veritable one-stop shop for comprehensive data about any given neighborhood, ZIP code or specifically defined area in the city.

Developed by several city agencies, CultueBlocks is grants-supported and free to the public. Its data comes largely from the Social Impact of the Arts Project, which has been collecting data for over 15 years.

What does this mean for the River Wards? The area as a whole, one CultureBlocks developer said, has become a hub of arts and culture-based enterprises. This could lead to investors’ interest in these communities.

“Anybody making investments can and would be using this tool to make better investment decisions. It helps people understand what’s happening in communities,” said Moira M. Baylson, deputy cultural officer for the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, a CultureBlocks developer.

This could lead, she said, to funds being channeled into arts organizations in neighborhoods like the River Wards.

Baylson said there is “absolutely” already a spread of arts and culture happening along the River Wards.

“An office like mine knows what’s happening [there],” she said. “There’s this creative buzz. Certainly if there’s a young artist or creative person interested in moving, they’d be able to see where there’s other creative businesses.”

What about neighborhoods that lack an abundance of creative enterprises?

“Everyone approaches it differently — some people want to be where other [creative] businesses are. Another would see a neighborhood with a lack of enterprises and say ‘there’s an opportunity here,’” Baylson said. “We want to identify areas of the city where there might be a lot of young people and resident artists [living and working], but not a lot of programs.”

Shanta Schachter, deputy director of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, said NKCDC has experimented with CultureBlocks a bit already.

“Identifying areas where audience participation is low [one of CultureBlocks’ assets is “cultural participation per 1,000 households”] helps us understand gaps in connecting valuable arts and cultural resources,” Schachter said. “This is particularly important in low-income areas that may lack resources.”

On the site, a user can explore an area in a variety of ways — by entering an address or ZIP code, a neighborhood name, a council or planning district or even a school catchment area. Users can filter what they want to search for: cultural resources, arts-related investments, or city resources, along with “people” data like ethnicity or age.

Each ZIP code or neighborhood has a “profile” as well. You can select, for example, the 19125 ZIP code or the “Port Richmond” neighborhood.

What defines a “neighborhood” may be up for some debate — search by neighborhood for “Northern Liberties,” for example, and the map outlines an area far different from what the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association defines as its boundaries.

The good news is, a user can draw a custom area on the map and see the points that fall within whatever area is considered the neighborhood. That’s what Star did — see below for some of the River Wards’ cultural data.

“As an organization working in these communities, it’s important to understand how area needs are shifting based on these demographics,” Schachter said.

All in all, the River Wards are a collection of neighborhoods, it would seem, that look pretty good on a map of growing arts and cultural activity.

“CultureBlocks can help people see the strength of their neighborhood,” Baylson said. “Neighborhoods that have cultural activity and are ethnically diverse are stronger communities.”

HOW DO THE RIVER WARDS’ ‘CULTURAL ASSETS’ STACK UP?

Under the neighborhood “profile” tab on the CultureBlocks website, Star used the “draw a custom area” tool to see what CultureBlocks lists as “cultural assets” in each River Wards neighborhood.

Some of CultureBlocks’ defined “assets” are not on this list; visit cultureblocks.com/tool.html to see it all, plus specific descriptions of what these assets are. Star defined each neighborhood by the boundaries of non-overlapping neighborhood civic associations.

Fishtown [FNA boundaries]:
Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations: 17
Cultural Businesses: 46
Public Art: 4
Art Galleries: 7
Cultural Events (Permits): 3

Northern Liberties [NLNA boundaries]:
Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations: 18
Cultural Businesses: 82
Public Art: 11
Art Galleries: 8
Cultural Events (Permits): 5

East Kensington [EKNA boundaries]:
Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations: 12
Cultural Businesses: 15
Public Art: 0
Art Galleries: 6
Cultural Events (Permits): 1

Old Richmond [ORCA boundaries]:
Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations: 8
Cultural Businesses: 10
Public Art: 0
Art Galleries: 1
Cultural Events (Permits): 1

Port Richmond [PROPAC boundaries]:
Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations: 13
Cultural Businesses: 20
Public Art: 3
Art Galleries: 0
Cultural Events (Permits): 1

Bridesburg [BCA boundaries]:
Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations: 7
Cultural Businesses: 8
Public Art: 2
Art Galleries: 0
Cultural Events (Permits): 0

Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215–354–3113 or at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.