The City of Mississauga is engaging residents on a whole new level with the launch of their Planning Information Hub. The application leverages ArcGIS Online to give residents access to planning data from across the city.
The City of Mississauga has been recognized numerous times for its excellent urban design. Its cityscape is made up of creative architecture that blends well with the natural environment. This reflects the significant attention the City pays to planning its fast-growing community. To engage its residents and the public in city building, Mississauga has launched the Planning Information Hub – an application that tells the City’s story of planning and building.
According to Steve Czajka, the City’s manager of information planning, the decision to build such an in-depth hub was based on a multi-year digital strategy that was developed in 2009. This led to the creation of the Planning Information Hub as an enabling technology for city building.
“We had to have all the pieces in place, such as solid data management fundamentals, before we could deploy a front-end hub. ArcGIS Online Story Maps was selected as the solution to bring our digital strategy to life as it offers a beautiful visual experience,” Steve said.
Developed using Esri Story Map templates, the application leverages ArcGIS Online to provide access to planning and building data from across the city, including information on planning projects, development applications and permits. The application also displays growth forecast data, which provides population, employment and housing forecasts that show which areas in the City will increase in population and employment over the next 25 years.
“ArcGIS Online made it easy for us to get started as the cloud-based solution had no impact on our IT infrastructure,” noted project lead David Kranjcevic. “Story Maps allowed for a vast amount of planning data to be shared in one interactive location, while being simple to manage and easily configurable. The authoring tools made creative cartography easy, and these maps display beautifully on any platform such as desktop, tablet or mobile. Story Maps also includes a feature that maintains your map extent as you click through different map tabs – like swiping through pages in an atlas.”
The Planning Information Hub features multiple tabs of diverse datasets, including urban design awards, employment density and trends, as well as vacant lands and the environment. The various datasets are from the Policy Planning, Development & Design, and Building Divisions within Mississauga’s Planning and Building Department.
The Planning Information Hub enables anyone, from students to multinational corporations, to search through significant amounts of planning-related data in one single location. There’s no longer the need to search through various web pages and maps to locate relevant information – it’s now all in one place.
The application leverages basemaps available in ArcGIS Online, allowing the City to focus their efforts on managing constantly changing information that needs to be displayed on the map. For example, new development applications are updated monthly for active development projects, while the other tabs are updated on an ongoing basis.
“Our Projects tab is a single map where anyone can view significant planning projects that the City is leading. This map is updated as new project portals are initiated on our website,” noted Dave Lepek, the City’s web specialist. “In addition, from a web authoring perspective, the flexibility to be able to peel off any one of the map tabs, such as Vacant Lands, and embed it in a specialized website is powerful.”
The public can also view updated land use information through the hub. Existing Land Use is a fundamental dataset in the Planning Department as it relates to their official plan monitoring and growth forecast operations.
“Data and information have become a strategic part of the Planning and Building Department, and this creative tool provides users with an amazing visual experience and timely, practical information,” said Andrew Whittemore, the City’s director of policy planning.
The feedback so far has been very positive. Users have been thrilled with the ease of use of the application, as well as the variety and complexity of information provided, which can be accessed from desktop or mobile devices.
Other levels of government also use the Planning Information Hub on a daily basis, with some advanced users accessing it through ArcGIS Desktop.
Members of Council also had positive comments. “This is exactly what citizens have been looking for: one-stop shopping where they can just click on something, and there's the data. You knocked it out of the park on this one. It’s absolutely incredible. Great job,” remarked Councillor Jim Tovey.
Looking forward, the Planning Department plans to release its business directory through the hub and its open data site in collaboration with the City’s Economic Development Office. In the longer term, it plans to grow the application organically.
“We’ve already been approached by other parts of the organization about the project, and we envision expanding the planning hub and developing new hubs, leading towards an overall geohub for the City of Mississauga,” noted Steve Czajka. “As well, the creative possibilities with the new Story Map Cascade app are endless. And as our city grows, 3D visualization will help fundamentally change city building.”