City of Savannah

Savannah Blight, Civic Data Science for Equitable Development

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Georgia Smart Project Period (2020 – 2021)

Savannah estimates that every abandoned, blighted property in this historic city bleeds approximately $1,300 of public funds annually. Despite its reputation for beautifully restored historic homes, there are approximately 4,286 vacant dwellings, likely blighted and abandoned in the Savannah metropolitan area, costing taxpayers millions of dollars annually. These funds are largely unrecoverable costs incurred for addressing overgrown grass, litter, illegal dumping, securing open structures and demolishing properties, and lost property tax revenue.

The City of Savannah utilized the initial Georgia Smart program to explore applications of emerging data analytics and machine learning techniques to leverage existing city data to guide decisions on the best strategy to deal with vacant and blighted properties in the community. This project assisted city officials and researchers to leverage data analysis to build new transparent decision tools to streamline the process of accurately identifying the best course of action for blighted properties in the community.

Dr. Clio Andris, Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech School of City & Regional Planning, and Dr. Omar Isaac Asensio, Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech School of Public Policy partnered with Savannah on the project and conducted data analysis using data furnished by the City. Additionally, they helped identify new data that can be collected, including data on housing performance and energy usage and social capital data to help bolster the city’s databases and capabilities. This project also leveraged existing capabilities including open source code and algorithms developed by Dr. Asensio as part of the GA Smart Cities program in Albany, GA for housing performance and analysis of blighted property interventions.

To learn more about the final outcomes of the initial project period, you can view the project’s final presentation below:


Community Research Partnership Extension (2022 – 2023)

Building on the work from the initial program period, the City of Savannah and Georgia Tech researcher Dr. Clio Andris will be continuing their work together, in partnership with Dr. Meimei Lin from Georgia Southern University, and the Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition.

The community research team will be exploring recreational features and infrastructure (including community centers, churches, etc.) that support a variety of relationships. The result will be:

(1) A smart database with types of infrastructure in Savannah, including raw numbers and rankings on how much they support (friendships, family, couples, corporate/professional ties, elderly, kids, teens). When broken down to basic demographics, the data will show who is being served, and what the city could to build to help support relationships and activity.

(2) Social infrastructure maps that show where in the city people use different types of infrastructure, who benefits from it, and where to put new infrastructure based on noted ‘holes’. The goal is to make these destinations more accessible and help make the city more equitable.

This project is driven in part by the desire to encourage local residents to get out of their homes, socializing, engaging in physical activity and thriving in post-pandemic Savannah. While it’s uncommon for communities to conduct ‘social infrastructure mapping’ in a way that explicitly connect the dots between things, this project will do so because it will illustrate who needs more support and how to activate parts of the social network that are dormant or lacking spaces to connect. There may also be economic returns for supporting and including a diverse group of residents.

The City of Savannah is also supported by the Partnership’s Smart Community Corps interns.

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