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August 2015

Seattleites have two new tools to monitor what's being built in their city

Real estate professionals and others interested in monitoring what's being built in Seattle neighborhoods can access two new tools: Shaping Seattle: Buildings and Seattle in Progress.

"Shaping Seattle," released by the City of Seattle's Department of Planning and Development, allows users to click on various points on a mobile-friendly map to see details and renderings of major projects under development around the city. Users can view/download each project's design specifics, illustrations, permit statuses and schedule of upcoming community meetings. The interactive site also invites comments.

The city's site follows last fall's unveiling of a desktop and mobile web app called "Seattle in Progress." It's the creation of Ethan Phelps-Goodman, who describes himself as a software developer, data scientist and civic organizer.

In announcing his creation, Phelps-Goodman said he is motivated by his belief that technologists need to play a more conscious role in shaping the cities in which they live. His tool is intended to "inform and engage residents in local land use and building design decisions." To accomplish that goal, he partners with businesses, non-profits and policy makers "to create technology that matters to Seattle."

In comparing the two tracking tools, GeekWire co-founder and editor Todd Bishop said an advantage of Seattle in Progress is that it is designed for mobile use, using location-based technologies and a lightweight image viewer. People can "easily see and view project documents on their phones when they're walking around a neighborhood and find themselves wondering what's going up on a specific block."

Bishop said the city's site shows many more projects than Seattle in Progress. "That's because the city includes many projects that have already been completed, which actually makes it more difficult to get a sense for current development projects in a given area," he noted.

In the first nine months since launching Seattle in Progress, the developer reports logging more than 60,000 unique visitors, which he says is "far more people than have ever been engaged in the design review process before."

Seattle in Progress offers a "Pro" subscription for professionals that need more powerful monitoring and analytics on the new construction pipeline. It offers both mobile and tablet interfaces.

The developer told GeekWire he is also working on an update to the free version to help residents understand development at a neighborhood level "in a way that's never been possible before."

Asked about the new competition from the city, Phelps-Goodman told GeekWire that he's proud his work has led the City to update its tools, adding "and I'm flattered they've chosen to model their new site after Seattle in Progress." He said he hopes there can be a more direct collaboration between the two entities, but commented, "In the meantime, I'm happy to continue leading by example."