The Urbanist Musings of Pete Saunders

Where You Are And Who You Are


Hey, it’s Friday.  I could write something dense and thought-provoking today, but why?

Here’s a great tool/time-waster.  ESRI, the makers of ArcGIS, has a tool called Tapestry.  Tapestry is the product of market segmentation analysis that ESRI has been compiling and providing for more than ten years.  Basically, you enter a zip code, and ESRI can tell you some basics about the lifestyle, demographics, consumer habits and other crucial customer data of importance to retailers, developers, and others.  In fact, ESRI has developed a spectrum of 67 separate market segments, grouped into 14 different “LifeMode” groups and 6 urbanization summary groups.

Of course, the fun of it is in the playing.  For example, I remember thinking that much of Detroit’s northwest side, where I grew up, bore a strong resemblance to Chicago’s south side neighborhoods like Roseland and Washington Heights.  If you enter the zip codes for each (48221 in Detroit, and 60643 in Chicago), you’ll find that about 50% of households in each fit the “Family Foundations” profile:

You can find our stable neighborhoods in major metros in the South and West.  We are a mix of married couples, single parents, singles, grandparents and young and adult children.  Family and faith are the cornerstone of our lives, with a strong focus on religion and character.  We live in older, single-family homes.  Adult children who still live at home are working toward financial independence.  Our unemployment rate is high; we work in health care or in all levels of public administration.    Social Security and retirement benefits provide income for many.  Even though we’re on a limited budget, style is important, so we buy clothes for our kids and ourselves at Marshalls and T.J. Maxx.  Smartphones are a must.  TV is big for us; we have 3-4 sets and subscribe to premium channels.

The characterization of the two neighborhoods is spot on.  Consider this for Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood (60613) and the 11201 zip code in Brooklyn.  The only difference between the “Metro Renters” in Lakeview and the “Laptops and Lattes” in Brooklyn seems to be the density of the neighborhood.  Here’s the Metro Renters description they both share:

Young, mobile, educated or still in school, we live alone or with a roommate in rented apartments or condos in the center of the city.  Long hours and hard work don’t deter us; we’re willing to take risks to get to the top of our professions.  Most of our income goes for rent, fashion and the latest technology; we use our cell phones and computers every day for news, entertainment, shopping and social media.  We live close to our jobs so we can either walk to work or take a cab.  We buy groceries at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and shop for clothes at Banana Republic, Nordstrom, and Gap.  We practice yoga, go skiing, and attend Pilates sessions.  

If you think it’s easy to write that description about the pretty gentrified parts of Chicago’s North Side and Brooklyn, I encourage you to test out its validity in other areas.  I’m guessing that an hour later, you’ll agree it’s a very cool tool.

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