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Do You Know Your Philly Neighborhoods?


While working on a project for Philadelphia Department of Records, Azavea staff revisited and revised a map delineating the neighborhoods of Philadelphia.  It started out simply enough, with an analyst cleaning up the file geometry and working on a cartographic representation.  But once the map was printed out and left on a table in the middle of the office, the characteristic quiet of the office was shattered.  What better way to get a team of geographers talking than around a map of where they live? The conversations did not quite come to blows, but they were certainly spirited. Let the revisions begin!

Most Azavea employees reside in Philadelphia and are passionate about where they live.  This data set was last updated in in 2006 and a lot has changed in our city.  Economic development on every border of Center City has reshaped the look and feel of these areas, and our staff was quick to point out boundaries on our map that needed to be reshaped as well.  New neighborhoods appeared, others expanded, and some were subsumed. We also found some mistakes in the original map that needed to be fixed.

There are no “official” neighborhoods in Philadelphia, so there is a certain amount of subjectivity to defining neighborhoods, the boundaries of which are often more of a porous and ambiguous zone a few blocks wide.  We researched neighborhood and community association websites and maps produced by other organizations to gather a good sense of how the cultural landscape of Philadelphia is understood by its residents.  And staff members representing each area of the city researched, vouched for and scratched in corrections for their respective regions.  This map will never satisfy everyone, and we still have some areas of uncertainty, but we think the product is a fair and up-to-date representation of the city.

Azavea is releasing the neighborhood file under the Creative Commons 3.0 license .  To make it available for different uses, we’ve uploaded it to the following places: