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Rockford IT Department outsources data cleaning & mapping to tackle blight

Rockford, IL, USA

Government Champion

Community and Economic Development Department


30 Thousand USD
30 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2017

At a Glance

As Rockford’s population grew, so did the need to address the city’s urban decay. As a first step, the city set out to define and better understand properties causing harm to the Rockford community, presenting the need for better data consolidation, which was previously spread across several systems.

Problem Addressed

Rockford’s population grew to over 150,000 in the early 2000’s, as soaring home prices in Chicago drove people 90 miles west to the more affordable Rockford metro area. Following the 2008 recession, in nearly one-third of the area’s mortgages, homes were worth less than the money owed. Homeowners deferred maintenance, resulting in deteriorating property conditions, and the number of vacant & abandoned properties grew to over two thousand.

To help shape Rockford’s strategy against urban decay, the Community and Economic Development Department (CEDD) and the Center of Community Progress (CCP) created the report, “Laying the Foundation: Developing an Improved Approach to Problem Properties in Rockford.” It emphasized the strong need to develop a clear definition and better understanding of which properties are causing the most harm to Rockford communities. Rockford and neighboring communities described an absence of communication with respect to problem properties, identifying the need for data management facilitation.

While the City has a sophisticated & capable Information Technology Department, it didn’t have enough resources to build a robust data analysis and visualization tool to address the needs outlined in the CCP report. The CEDD team spent hours each week looking across six enterprise systems to get holistic information on a single problem property.

If there was a need for more complex reporting or analysis—such as prioritizing the list of problem properties by combining data on open code violations, police & fire incidents, tax delinquency, foreclosures, and more—the City had to query multiple databases and standardize datasets across disparate systems, an onerous process that could take up to a week.

Rockford used/is using BuildingBlock's data management platform to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

To better identify properties and streamline data, the city decided to implement BuildingBlocks, a map-based application that connects and updates data held in various systems across both departments and agencies. With easy setup and use, city officials were able to quickly incorporate the platform into their vacant property search. They were able to work with the code enforcement and community development users to integrate data sources from various servers and GIS applications across both the city and county.

Tolemi helped to identify useful fields based on their work in dozens of other municipalities across the country and collaborated with officials to define the most effective file transfer and data integration methods to provide automated nightly updates to BuildingBlocks. “Once we had the data located and code written to harvest it, the Tolemi team took it from there and shouldered a lot of the load,” Adkisson, the database administrator, said.


  1. New data can be added quickly and easily, decreasing time spent on data cleaning and increasing time spent doing dashboard analysisr.
  2. Fast, effective decision-making as the result of dynamic data

Who Should Consider?

Cities of any size that are looking for customized information without increasing the burden on staff time.

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