PHLMaps adds Visual Imagery Dating Back to 1996

City Basemap

Do you use Google Maps? Yahoo Maps? If you’re in Philadelphia, you could be using PHLmaps. The City of Philadelphia’s GIS Services Group has created a high-quality, public mapping service packed with valuable data.

Built on the cloud-based ArcGIS platform, the free, interactive service leverages data the City has been producing and acquiring for years. The service includes Philadelphia-specific basemaps designed by the GIS team and over 140 maps showing specific data points such as healthy eating establishments, police stations, evacuation-routes, and zoning districts, among others. While these maps can be viewed on the PHLmaps site, the basemaps are also available to download as APIs through the Open Data Philly portal.  

A basemap on PHLmaps.

A basemap on PHLmaps.


Basemap options on PHLmaps.

Basemap options on PHLmaps.

Most recently, the GIS team added aerial imagery from 1996-2012 to the PHLmaps service. This means that you can view any property or location throughout this period of time, and zoom at a higher quality than is offered through Google Maps or other services. Having access high-quality maps throughout the past fifteen years could be useful to investigate or research a specific property and could also improve permitting processes. Below, you can see the development of Dilworth Park (formerly Dilworth Plaza prior to 2014) through the years using PHLmaps:








2011 (Summer):


2011 (Winter):






Energy Office Completes Data Inventory; New Data Sets from Commerce, GIS Services Group

Today is a big day for open data, with the release of the Energy Office’s data inventory and batches of data sets released for consumption by the Department of Commerce and the City’s GIS Services Group.

Energy Office

The City of Philadelphia’s Energy Office, part of the Office of Sustainability, joins eight other agencies in sharing the list of data sets generated or maintained through their operations. The list includes data sets like the amount of energy used by the City’s primary offices, captured at 15 minute intervals as well as the costs avoided through energy saving efforts.

The Energy Office serves to manage energy supply and demand for city government operations, with the mission to:

  • Strategically procure cost effective, reliable, safe, clean energy and conventional energy systems for city government;
  • Promote energy conservation and efficiency within City facilities by providing education, technical expertise and analysis of energy used; and
  • Develop and implement projects and programs that promote the efficient use of energy and reduce the City’s environmental impact.

The Office is seeking feedback on how the data sets in the inventory might be utilized for research, application development, and more. As with other agencies participating in the inventory process, this feedback will inform which data sets they then work towards releasing to the public. To check out the list and submit your ideas, go to

Department of Commerce

In addition, the Department of Commerce released three data sets today available now in API format and bulk download. These data sets were prioritized by the department after publishing their own inventory earlier this year and include:

  • Economic Opportunity Plans
    • Capturing Minority/Women/Disabled Owned Business participation in many large construction projects led by public, private, and nonprofit organizations
  • Storefront Improvement Grants
    • Recipients and locations of grant money to improve the exterior of their business, attracting more customers and improving the corridor on which they reside
  • Office of Economic Opportunity Minority/Women/Disabled Owned Business Registry
    • List of all minority, women, and disabled owned businesses that have registered with the Office of Economic Opportunity
    • Note: This data set was already available for bulk download but is now also available in API format and refreshed on a nightly basis for use in applications.

For more information about the data sets catalogued by the Commerce Department and other agencies, check out the data inventory.

GIS Services Group

WMOF Traffic BoxThe City’s G.I.S. Group also released data relating to the World Meeting of Families Traffic Box. The data outlines the boundaries and bordering streets of the Traffic Box which were released during a press conference at City Hall on August 5, 2015. The Traffic Box will go into effect on on Friday, September 25th. Specific details around the Traffic Box and other security measures during the World Meeting of Families can be read about in the press release from the Mayor’s Office.

Along with Traffic Box data, the G.I.S.Services Group also released Zoning Overlay Districts dataCity Council District boundaries data based on 1990 Census population information, neighborhood boundary data, and City-owned or operated building data

Spotlight Innovator: Dan O’Brien


The City’s Innovation Management group concentrates on building an innovation infrastructure within municipal government. Through its innovation academy, lab, and fund, the group works with a wide-range of City employees, all doing interesting things in and around government. We think its important to highlight these employees and their work. Today’s highlight is Dan O’Brien.

Name, title, and department:

Dan O’Brien, Deputy Director of Implementation, Office of Grants, Finance Department.

Describe your role.

Some of my duties include: assisting City agencies with the implementation and management of grant funded programs and activities; actively pursuing grant opportunities that align with the Mayor’s goals and bringing in resources to support implementation of promising, proven or innovative programs; and promoting collaboration and coordination across City agencies and fostering partnerships with the public and private sectors.

Tell us about an interesting project you’re working on.

There are a couple of groundbreaking projects I’m working on, with the help of a number of really amazing City employees and outside partners, that focus on creating jobs and green spaces in North Philadelphia. One that stands out is funded by The Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative. It is a Summer program that brings together two amazing organizations: Philly Urban Creators and The Mural Arts Guild. A team of 13 men and women, all from the 22nd Police District, was hired by Mural Arts and they are spending their Summer painting murals, building garden beds and transforming empty lots into green spaces and community gardens, all in or around their neighborhood. What makes this program so innovative is there is an entrepreneurial component making sure that the guild members are developing transferable skills and practice marketing their experience for future employment. Many City departments have been and will continue to be involved as the crew both improves their neighborhood and hones their life skills.

How has the Innovation Lab, Academy, or Fund changed your experience in working for city government?

I can’t fully calculate what an asset the Innovation Academy has been to my personal development, but also to the City at large, because new benefits continue to emerge. Weekly, I’m reaching out to an alumni of the Academy to assist on a project or helping them move the ball forward with something they’re working on.

I’m a firm believer that if you put creative people who like to solve problems in a room, great things can happen. The City of Philadelphia was forward thinking enough to recognize one of their greatest assets was a thoughtful and diverse set of employees and to create the Innovation Academy to cultivate this resource.

How do you spend your Saturdays?

My Saturdays are generally spent trying to entertain my children (3 and 1). Between my wife and I, it’s generally an unsightly dance between some combination of the Clark Park farmers market, zoo, Please Touch Museum, Camden Aquarium and Academy of Natural Sciences. (The yearly memberships are some of the best bargains in the City!) I did just become a bike owner, because that seems to be the thing to do in the city these days, so I’m trying to incorporate exploring the various bike paths into my Saturday routine as well.

Innovation as a Practice of Patience

As a member of the inaugural cohort in the Academy for Municipal Innovation in 2014, I learned a lot about what innovation is and how to think about my work with the City differently. Soon after graduating from the Academy, a colleague and fellow Academy grad, Moria Miller, and I were able to apply some lessons on innovation as co-project managers of the Plants Make Positive Places (P3) pilot project.

Funded through the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia’s Innovation Fund, P3’s mission is to test and measure the feasibility of expanding plant propagation, reuse, and distribution within the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) system in order to expand plants’ positive aesthetic, educational, and ecological impact. P3 was inspired by an idea submitted by fellow City worker and avid horticulturalist, Dr. Alvin Powell of the Health Department. Dr. Powell saw an opportunity to reuse City-owned plant material to generate and grow new plant life in the City.

The Fund allowed the P3 Project Team to contract a P3 Coordinator to help us actualize Dr. Powell’s vision. We hired Eric Blasco of Erb Food & Garden, who has brought his horticultural expertise to P3. Additionally, we budgeted for perennial plant material which will act as a capital investment for the department and is designed to make returns back into PPR’s system each season through propagation by trained staff members.

Eric Blasco leading a training on cane fruit.

Eric Blasco leading a training on cane fruit.

Starting in May of this year, Eric installed cane fruit patches (e.g. raspberries, blackberries) at PPR’s in-house nursery, the Greenland Nursery. Through partnerships with Greenland’s manager, Max Blaustein, our Urban Forestry & Ecosystem Management Division, and the Department’s Farm Philly Program, we have begun to better understand the benefits of having a plot of plant material targeted for use by a specific program. This cane fruit will rejuvenate itself while supporting local ecology, PPR educational programs, and operations systems at the same time.

This month we approved a design for a plant menu to be used as part of the P3 project and to be recommended for adoption by PPR. The menu includes a list of perennial plants and modular garden designs for those plants. These garden designs can be arranged in different ways depending on the application (variations of shade, size of bed, etc.). The menu provides PPR with a platform to propagate by limiting the number of plants with which our maintenance staff will have to become familiar, while allowing for multiple combinations of each species of plant.

Part of the Plant Menu

Part of the Plant Menu

For the rest of this year, we plan to apply the plant menu to several sites throughout the city. By conducting site analyses, choosing sites with appropriate physical and community conditions, and then training existing staff on the menu and appropriate plant care, we will complete the first cycle in the P3 process. We look forward to formally adopting this process as a part of what we do as a department further down the line.

A lot of what we are developing with P3 ties into one of the lessons that was introduced at the Academy: Systems Thinking. While we are still building a systems model that represents P3, we have been able to realize one important systems thinking lesson: within each system are built-in delays. After completing the Academy and being able to apply its lessons to the P3 project, I have learned that innovation is not only defined by what you do, but also in having the patience to test your ideas and learn from their results. On behalf of the P3 Project Team, we are striving to do just that.

GIS Team Publishes Third Batch of Data in a Series of Releases

A few weeks ago, we posted a story about the City’s GIS Services Group and a housecleaning project that resulted in three batch releases of geospatial data. Today, the third batch was released, consisting of data related to public health and human services.

Of the data sets released, two include out-of-school programming information for parents making plans for the upcoming school year. This data was released by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation and is maintained by the Department of Public Health. The remaining three data sets come from the Department of Public Health itself, one of which is a previously released set of Vital Statistics that includes Birth and Death counts by zipcode or census tract. The batch in total includes the following data sets:

The GIS Services Group’s housecleaning project involved taking an inventory of the City’s central data warehouse, working with hundreds of geospatial data sets from across City departments to refresh data sets, metadata, and permissions. The project resulted in dozens of data sets being approved for public release and helped the City’s GIS publishing policies and practices evolve and spread to an internal community of geodata analysts and publishers. Read more about this effort – and its results – in our first blog post of the series.

A Day in the Life?

FullSizeRenderOne of the most common questions I get as Deputy Mayor and Managing Director is, “What’s a typical day like?” People seem to want to know what a “Day in the Life” is working for a great City like Philadelphia. The true answer is, there is no such thing as a “typical” day in this job; it can be a fast-paced survey of projects, conversations with employees, interactions with community members, Interviews with media, updates for the Mayor and the Chief of Staff, speeches on important issues, and some days, dealing with unexpected crisis. My days are often about not knowing what to expect. In this position, I constantly have a front-row seat to some of our City’s great accomplishments and, unfortunately, to some of our most horrendous tragedies. While no day is the same in my position, last week, I had a day that serves as a striking snapshot of what it’s like. There may not be “typical” days in this job but there are days that are so poignant that they underscore my role and the many challenges we face as a City.  So when I looked at my calendar to decide when might be a good day for a “day in the life” post, Wednesday, June 17th looked good. It had a variety of subjects, speeches, events and meetings that I thought showed the diversity of issues involved in this role. I asked for and was assigned an intern, Samantha Kapnek, to ride along and help capture the busy day.  I was looking forward to a full day of productive meetings and meaningful events.

Little did I know that it would be one of the more memorable days of my service. Little did I know that my day would begin and end with one of the most important and challenging issues facing our City and country.

The run-down of my day went something like this:

7:00am-8:30am: Wake up. Prepare for work. Coffee and quick breakfast. Scan all the papers on-line and review social media feeds, respond to emails, review notifications from Police Department on major incidents overnight and into the early morning hours. Today, as I prepared to leave for a middle school to discuss gun violence, two notifications specifically grabbed my attention.

Message generated from the City of Philadelphia Employee Alert System.


Message generated from the City of Philadelphia Alert System.


8:30am-9:00am:  Travel to Kensington section of the City.

9:00am-10:30am: Arrive at John B. Stetson Middle School. Speak at the opening of a 5th grade class’s memorial garden project for loved ones impacted by gun violence. (Collectively, the class had over 80 loved ones impacted by gun violence.) Speak about the tragedy of gun violence, share my personal experience, hear the class’ experiences with it, and discuss the need for both legislative and cultural changes throughout our country. Share stories, spend time with 5th graders, teachers, and PhillyRising staff. Speak with Channel 6abc news on the garden’s opening.


10:30am: Travel to office in Municipal Services Building in Center City.

11:00am-12:00pm: Meet with Fleet Department Commissioner, Chris Cocci, on operational updates and status of capital investments related to public safety vehicles. Review 5 year plan to replenish and modernize vehicles and equipment.

12:00pm-12:30pm: Review documents related to PhillyRising neighborhood expansion.

12:30pm-1:00pm: Meet with Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff on new directive around large special events and emergency employee deployment.


1:00pm-1:15pm: Eat lunch at my desk. (Soup) Review email, on-line news and social media feeds.

1:15pm-1:30pm: Meet with Deputy Chief of Staff regarding mail, scheduling and upcoming events.

1:35PM:  Another police alert:

Message generated from the City of Philadelphia Employee Alert System.


1:30pm-2:00pm: Meet with Chief of Staff regarding next year’s National Urban Fellows. (The Managing Director’s Office hopes to have two urban fellows next year exposing students to public service and providing research and policy support.)

2:00pm: Intern Samantha Kapnek joins me for the afternoon events.

IMG_76022:00pm-2:30pm: Speak in the Innovation Lab at the last session and graduation of a Center of Excellence leadership development training for City employees. Present professional certificates to graduates and have Q&A with leadership class participants.

2:30pm-3:00pm: Meet with Philly311’s Head of Operations, Sheryl Johnson, on 311’s organizational changes and staffing needs during the Papal visit and other upcoming large summer events.

3:00pm-3:15pm: Welcome America update. Meet with the Office of Special Event’s Bob Allen on 4th of July planning.

3:15pm-3:30pm: Travel to Federal Courthouse Ceremonial Courtroom at 6th & Market in Center City.

IMG_76003:30pm-4:00pm: Speak before federal judges and judicial interns at the Judicial Intern Opportunity Program orientation held at the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Discuss my career path and legal career, diversity in the legal profession and public service.

4:15pm-4:30pm: Speak with the Center of Excellence’s Edward Garcia on his idea for a new workforce development opportunity for returning citizens.

4:30pm-5:00pm: Travel to Citizen’s Bank Park in South Philadelphia.

IMG_76015:00pm-6:30pm: Arrive at Citizens Bank Park. Speak at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony. Congratulate 15 of Philadelphia’s newest citizens on being sworn in. Congregate with the new citizens, their families, Phillies team representatives and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs’, Jennifer Rodriguez and Fernando Trevino.

6:45pm: Travel home

7:30pm-9:30pm: Arrive at home. Order food for family. Put my youngest daughter to bed. Review email on-line, news and social media feeds, sit down to watch TV.

10:00pm: My heart sinks as I receive the first message about the shooting in Charleston.

10:00pm-1:30am: Watch in disbelief and horror the coverage of Charleston Massacre across news outlets.

1:30am-2:30am: Lay restless trying to sleep thinking about the days events and, despite such great progress, how far we still have to go as a society.


Speaking at a CeaseFirePA rally.

My day began and ended with gun violence. This is an issue which has personally touched my life with the death of my father and an issue which has impacted me so profoundly as Deputy Mayor and Managing Director. One of the difficult aspects of this job is the repeated exposure to complex problems in our city and feeling an overwhelming responsibility to fix them. Whether it’s the violence in our neighborhoods, our children too often caught in the crossfire, open season on our police officers or the widespread proliferation of guns, we need to do something about the gun violence in our society. The shooting in Charleston was a horrific attack and one that could have just as easily happened in any city or town in America.  It was an act of terror. Earlier that morning, I was with 5th graders in Philadelphia as they told me about their personal experiences with gun violence. Many of their families too, have been terrorized by gun violence. It was gut wrenching. Now, at the end of my day, Charleston was gut wrenching. Gun violence continues to be a blood stain on our society.

While this busy day gives a snapshot of what it’s like to be a big City Managing Director, it also gives an accurate snapshot of what it’s like to be an American. Whether it’s the mass shootings at our churches, schools, malls, movie theatres or the violence in our neighborhoods, we are constantly surrounded, overwhelmed, and terrorized by gun violence. This cannot be the status quo. This cannot be our “Day in the Life” any longer.  And you don’t need to be a Deputy Mayor or Managing Director to make a difference.

I hope we all do our part to make sure we no longer have days like June 17th.

If you’d like to get involved locally in stopping gun violence, visit Mothers In Charge and CeaseFirePA.

Rich headshot 1

Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is the Managing Director’s blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.

GIS Team Releases Second of Three Batch Releases of Data

As we wrote about last week, the City’s Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Services Group has undertaken a massive housecleaning project resulting in the approval of dozens of new data sets for public release.

The project, which involved taking an inventory of the City’s central warehouse for geospatial data, has yielded some important results for city government. Along with the data releases, the project has helped the City’s GIS publishing policies and practices evolve and spread to an increasingly unified internal community of geodata analysts and publishers, ultimately transforming the way the City of Philadelphia publishes and shares geospatial data.

Today, the City is releasing the second of three batches made possible by the GIS group’s project. (Last week, a batch of “Streets Department” geospatial data was released.) Below are the contents of the “Urban Planning” release, broken down by departmental owner. Stay tuned for next week’s release!

Planning Commission

Police Department

Water Department

Office of Housing and Community Development

Office of Innovation & Technology

Office of Property Assessment

GIS Team Releases First of Three Upcoming Batches of Data

For years, the City of Philadelphia has stored geospatial data from various departments in one central warehouse. Over time, the warehouse amassed hundreds of geospatial data sets of everything from ZIP Codes, to police districts, to bike lanes.  Because of this long-standing warehouse, a strong culture of cross departmental-collaboration exists amidst the geospatial analysts. However, as happens over time, many data sets became outdated and the warehouse required some fresh eyes.

As a part of the City’s newly expanded Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Services Group efforts to redefine policies and standards for sharing and publishing data internally, the team took it upon itself to clean up this central data warehouse. It was a housecleaning project, and a tedious one. First the team created a comprehensive inventory of the warehouse, making sense of duplicate or erroneous data sets. The team then worked closely with geospatial analysts within each department to refresh useable data, removing unusable data, update metadata and revisit whether or not the data could be shared with the public.

The housecleaning project is approximately halfway complete thanks to the efforts of Deputy Geospatial Information Officer Grant Ervin and Lead GIS Analyst Jennifer Johnson.  It has already yielded some important results for City government:

  1. The geospatial data and corresponding metadata are more reliable than ever.
  2. Publishing policies and practices have evolved and are being communicated to an increasingly unified internal community of geodata analysts and publishers.
  3. Dozens of geospatial data sets have been newly approved for public release.

These outcomes have transformed the way Philadelphia City government publishes and shares geospatial data.  The public will also see tangible results. Over the next three weeks, the City of Philadelphia will be releasing three batches of geospatial data in the categories of “Streets”; “Urban Planning”; and “Health and Licenses & Inspections”, respectively – a direct result of the GIS team’s housekeeping project.

Below are the contents of the first batch of data, all from the Streets Department. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as two more batches are released.

Streets Department Geospatial Data:

Philadelphia Bridges the Digital Divide with KEYSPOT

This is a guest post from Ben Burenstein, KEYSPOTS Program Administrator 


When the Office of Innovation and Technology and its partners set out to increase digital inclusion in 2010 by creating open-access computing centers called KEYSPOTS, we made sure to work with organizations throughout the city that were already known for their commitment to Philadelphia’s neediest people. Since then KEYSPOT computers have been used more than a half-million times. I’ve seen their impact on toddlers playing and learning about math and reading at special “Young Explorer” workstations, and on seniors smiling, delighted, as they message their grandkids with Facebook. I’ve heard it from teens making beats with midi keyboards, or chirping happily when they realize they graduated high school by passing computerized tutorials. And I’ve felt it in the proud firm handshakes of adults who progressed through computer basics classes, learning everything from mouse behaviour through Microsoft Office, and finally got jobs.

Many people came to KEYSPOTS nervous, sure that when they typed the wrong thing smoke would start to curl up and they would break the computer. When they meet the trained Computer Instructors and Digital Resource Specialists in the 50+ KEYSPOTS, however, they start to relax; and when they produce their first documents, set up email accounts, or work through the process of filing their taxes (among the many activities that have taken place), they feel more like they are part of the digital revolution rather than apart from it.

It’s been gratifying to provide hubs to support governmental and non-governmental programs. KEYSPOTS have worked on communicating and training Philadelphians on the goals of Shared Posperity. We’ve helped families learn inexpensive ways to obtain computers and get online. We’ve worked with the Digital Service Fellows, Youth Engineering and Science, and Coded by Kids to help youth develop skills that will lead them to higher paying jobs while at the same time preparing a more-tech savvy Philly workforce. One project, “The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It was featured in a Sundance Video.

What does the future hold for KEYSPOTS? We’ll continue to cover all the basics we know Philly citizens still need – word-processing, spreadsheets, internet searching, and supporting the schoolwork of kids in many Afterschool programs – while keeping our eyes on developments that are sure to affect us all, such as mobile technologies, virtual reality, and cutting-edge training methods to make sure our educational techniques are as up-to-date as our hardware.

Keep following the PhillyInnovates blog for more stories about KEYSPOTs.

Office of Innovation and Technology Honored in CIO100 for Integrating Open Data and Digital Inclusion


Open data and digital inclusion efforts are two important components in a municipal IT portfolio. Both working to increase access to information and technology, the efforts have a mutually beneficial relationship. Despite this, these initiatives often remain separate in strategy and implementation.

Earlier this month, the Office of Innovation and Technology was honored in CIO Magazine’s “CIO 100” for strategically integrating its open data and digital inclusion efforts. The CIO100 is a relatively prestigious award and typically honors private sector organizations that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology. It was an honor for the Office of Innovation and Technology to be included in this year’s award, but one that was well-earned.

The Office of Innovation & Technology has redefined civic technology by purposefully developing and integrating its open data work with an equally robust focus on digital access and inclusion. By strategically linking the two initiatives, the work of each complements and enhances the other. Open data efforts are maximized when equally robust digital inclusion work increase access to technology among the population and gives users the ability to consume information and applications. The City of Philadelphia has released over 190 data sets onto the OpenDataPhilly portal, has provided services to about three quarters of a million clients at its Keyspot computer centers, and has also developed a portfolio of civic technology tools such as the Philadelphia Property Search and the AVI calculator, among others. By strategically integrating two often separate initiatives, the City of Philadelphia has elevated each to a higher level of value.

Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid said, “We appreciate this recognition because it credits our entire organization and isn’t typically awarded to government. One reason we’ve been able to advance public facing initiatives like open data and digital inclusion is that we’ve strengthened our internal capacity to provide day-to-day technology support for city departments, and that’s a credit to our whole organization.”


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