Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hamtramck, Highland Park turn to “blexting” technology to address blight

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Last winter hundreds of surveyors used blight texting or “blexting” to better understand what government leaders in the city could not, that is, to assess the conditions of the nearly 375,000 parcels spread across Detroit’s 140-square-miles. The mobile technology received national attention for its unconventional method of addressing one of the city’s biggest challenges, with literally the click of a tablet button, and helped government leaders identify which properties can be saved and which need to be torn down.

Now the Detroit inner-city enclaves of Hamtramck and Highland Park are hoping that blexting will help them, as Hamtramck City Manager Kathy Angerer puts its, “get a handle on what we’re dealing with.”

Blexting began in both cities on Monday, with 20 paid surveyors driving block by block to assess the more than 13,000 parcels between them. The technology, developed by Loveland Technologies’ “Motor City Mapping” project and funded by a mix of private and public entities, allows surveyors to collect data in real-time that will be used to build an online map that shows exactly where problem properties are located. In addition to the paid field workers, the public can also take part in assessment efforts by downloading the blexting app on the Google Play and Apple Store platforms.

Both Hamtramck and Highland Park have had their share of state intervention over the years as each have been under the control of emergency financial managers dating back to the turn of the 21st century. Both former automotive hubs for General Motors and Chrysler, respectively, the cities’ economies and housing have fallen into decline, although Hamtramck’s neighborhoods have remained relatively intact, thanks in part to a constant inflow of immigration.

This latest blexting campaign comes less than two weeks after the federal government allotted $75 million to the Michigan Housing Development Authority to help 12 Michigan cities hit hardest by blighted neighborhoods. Other Metro Detroit cities considered for federal assistance include Detroit, Ecorse, River Rouge and Inkster. Out state, the cities of Adrian, Ironwood, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights and Port Huron are also considered to be experiencing property declines.

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