What makes a neighborhood an attractive place to live and work? Many planners and urban advocates believe that a neighborhood is more desirable if it has constant activity throughout the day and late into the night. This is because having activity on the streets at all hours makes it feel more vibrant, brings fosters diversity in people and activities, and ensures continuous safety. This ideal is often referred to as the “24-hour neighborhood.” Urban planners, developers, and architects often work towards this ideal when planning new neighborhoods, or when trying to improve existing neighborhoods.
This idea emerged as a reaction to many central urban office districts that became vacant after office workers left at 5pm. Instead of zoning a district to only allow office buildings, planners are now interested in creating a mix of uses that will enliven the neighborhood at all hours. Retail, restaurants, and entertainment might be promoted to keep people in the neighborhood after 5pm or on the weekends. Also, residential uses may be allowed in the neighborhood, which brings in a host of services for their needs.
How can you measure if a neighborhood is meeting the “24-hour neighborhood” ideal? At KPFui we’ve been exploring datasets that would help us answer this question. One such dataset is called Google "Places". This is the dataset that’s used when you type in the name of a business into Google Maps. Most businesses have data in the Google Places dataset. This includes the business name, street address, web address, rating, price range, and hours of operation. The hours of operation, in particular, can be used to better understand when businesses are open in a particular neighborhood.
This study shows the Google Places dataset for 3 neighborhoods in NYC: the Financial District, The East Village/Greenwich Village, and Midtown. In order to better understand the impact of open businesses on the street, this visualization shows the number of businesses open on each street for each hour of the day.
Financial District, Manhattan
This animation shows the number of open places in the Financial District (FiDi) for every hour of the day on Wednesday and Saturday. It's very evident that this is an office neighborhood because of the much larger quantity of places open during the week, versus on the weekend.
East Village and Greenwich Village, Manhattan
In the center of this map is Astor Place, with the East Village to the right, and Greenwich Village to the left. The difference between weekday and weekend activity is much less than in the Financial District. While having some office space, these neighborhoods are largely residential and retail focused. Retail along Broadway attracts both weekday and weekend day traffic. Meanwhile, the East Village's rich nightlife is evident the quantity of places that are open late into the night.
In this animation of Midtown, centered on Times Square, we see a similar condition as in the Financial District. The weekend sees much less activity than during the week. This is also a district that is largely based around office workers.