Tuesday, August 05, 2014

UIS survey helps identify Sangamon County residents’ perceptions about their neighborhoods

A University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy & Leadership survey, conducted for the Springfield Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission, explores resident preferences for their “ideal” neighborhood and identifies areas where improvements are needed.

The Neighborhood Survey, which updated a 1975 study by the Planning Commission, asked residents about the visual aesthetics of houses, buildings, signs, and other infrastructure elements in their neighborhoods. The survey also assessed the condition of streets, alleys, sidewalks, and pedestrian crossings.

The survey found all residents (including Springfield residents) had fairly favorable attitudes toward streets and roads in terms of cleanliness and convenience, however only one-third felt that the streets are in good condition.

“By plotting on a map where individuals report that their streets and roads are in poor condition we are able to examine where there are needed infrastructure improvement projects in Sangamon County,” said Ashley Kirzinger, director of the UIS Survey Research Office.

Through the survey, residents of various regions of the county provided a list of the most desired amenity, the types of features of their ideal neighborhood, and any current detractions that take away from the appearance of their neighborhood.

Respondents were provided 84 possible terms to describe their neighborhoods, the most commonly identified terms used were developed (70.6%), relaxed (64.0%), and calm (62.1%). However, there are differences between regions. Individuals living outside of the Springfield metro area described their neighborhoods as quiet (North Sangamon County), homey (East Sangamon County), calm (South Sangamon County), and appealing (West Sangamon County); while individuals living inside the city limits describe their neighborhoods as older (Northeast Springfield), maintained (Southeast Springfield), developed (Southwest Springfield), and connected (Northwest Springfield). Other results vary between regions.

Residents outside of the Springfield metro area were more positive toward the buildings in their region than residents within the city. Residents of Northeast Springfield were most likely to report that sidewalks were not suitable for walking, and alleys were viewed as more important and ranked more favorably among residents of Southeast Springfield. Residents living in south Sangamon County want more access to hiking and biking trails while individuals living in Southeast Springfield would like to have landscaped parkways in their neighborhoods.

“The survey represents an important update to our understanding of neighborhoods and their role in increasing quality of life throughout the region,” said Norm Sims, executive director of the Springfield Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission. “It provides a fresh look at the work the SSCRPC did almost 40-years ago on this topic, and also helps us project what forces residents would like to see at work in their neighborhoods in the years to come, as well as the kinds of places where they would like to live.”

The Neighborhood Survey was mailed to 728 Sangamon County residents based on zip codes during the spring and summer of 2014. For comparison purposes, individuals were placed into regions based on the location of their mailing address and each region includes at least 70 respondents.

For more information on the survey, contact Ashley Kirzinger, director of the UIS Survey Research Office, at 217/206-7956 or akirz2@uis.edu. A copy of the full report is available on the UIS Survey Research website and on the Regional Planning Commission’s website.

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