Building Blocks Program

The city of St. Joseph, through its Neighborhood Service Initiative, is ratcheting up its efforts against distressed and vacant properties to improve neighborhood conditions by the implementation of a new software program. Recognizing the constraints of a limited budget, the City is taking a data-driven approach to identify, prioritize, and address properties with the most negative impact on the community. 

The Planning & Community Development Department has implemented a new software program called Building Blocks to automate and accelerate this work. This program is now live and has real time data that can be viewed by the public. The software program integrates records from across departments, allowing the city to track property maintenance issues, vacant or dangerous buildings, rental properties, fire inspections and police data all in a single platform. All of the data is mapped to highlight focus areas. Powerful analytical tools pinpoint specific properties in need of targeted interventions, as well as those requiring a tailored approach because of historic preservation considerations. 

The ability to map and identify structures needing immediate attention allows the city to maximize the limited amount of funding available to facilitate the securing and demolition process. Instead of relying on institutional knowledge, Building Blocks allows a city to combine complaints, violations, outstanding fees, crime incidents, and more, for all the properties an owner is responsible for. Tracking and monitoring of progress is just the first in a number of ways the software will help track performance indicators for the city. Planning & community development will also lean on Building Blocks to help draft the City’s Comprehensive Plan - St. Joseph 2040.

In addition to helping city staff prioritize properties most in-need of corrective action, Building Blocks allows information to be shared publicly so citizens can track progress and see how the city is taking steps to improve their neighborhood. This tool can also be by Neighborhood Associations to work directly with the city on properties in their focus area. 

City staff from multiple departments/divisions: fire, police, public works, building, zoning, property maintenance, dangerous buildings and information technology, will be able to utilize this unique software tool. Building Blocks is designed to track property information, to understand how appropriating limited resources can have greater success in identifying and eliminating neighborhood appearance problems.   

By prioritizing cases, staff can define and direct limited resources where they are needed most. After quickly visualizing where the most urgent cases are located, Building Blocks can automate assignments to staff based on location, complaint type, and more. Instead of waiting for citizens to call and report concerns, Building Blocks will allow staff to get ahead of potential problems.