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Timeframe: September 2014 - December 2014

Jackson, MI boasts more than 300 historic district properties; however the information about the historic status of these properties is not easily accessible.  Historic property owners are often unaware that Historic District Commission (HDC) approval is required before externally renovating their historic property. By the time they become aware of this fact, they have often already begun the process of renovation. In addition, the process of submitting an application to the HDC was unclear from instructions on the HDC webpage. Navigating the application was also challenging, which resulted in omission of important facts required by the HDC.

We redesigned the website and built a tool which makes it easier for homeowners in Jackson to find out whether their home is historic or not. We also redesigned the website to provide information about the Historic District Property application for permission approval process. We modified the format of the application form which is now available in both electronic and print formats. Because of the simplification of the form, more succinct content and clear instructions, completing the application now requires less time and effort . Information required to fill the forms is also now more accessible since a lot of outdated and irrelevant information has been removed from the website.

Lastly, we devised recommendations and guidelines for the Historic District Commission to implement a promotional mailer that will alert property owners of the historic status of their home and inform them of relevant responsibilities with regards to renovation.

Being a part of this project has helped us understand what it takes to use information technology to enhance local government. Sustainability is always the most important aspect of any solution, and we had the difficult task of taking modern information technology and adapting it to an organization that may not be as technically proficient. Although it was a challenge, it was rewarding to see how we can use simple, modern technology to truly enhance a local government organization.

The website can be viewed at:

  • The poster provides overview of the problem, objectives and outcomes of the project.
  • Disseminated during December 2014 Civic Exposition, the brochure provides overview of Historic District Commission and Jackson history.
  • Attachment
    Part of the promotional mailer, the measuring tape, a common construction tool, reminds historic property owners of unique responsibilities.
  • Attachment
  • Fillable PDF allows applicants to access and complete application electronically. Improved layout prevents information overload.



  • Haad Khan

    Haad Khan / Data Analyst

    University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
    As a data analyst, I preprocessed the data from GIS and visualized it on fusion chart. I also evaluated the technical solution, their suitability to the end project and alter where necessary.
  • Jinesh Shah

    Jinesh Shah / Designer

    University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
    I was the key designer and programmer for much of the project. In addition to designing the webpages and application, I designed and built the historic property search tool. I worked closely with Joseph Hawley to implement the designs in the new City of Jackson website.
  • Gedi Tang

    Gedi Tang / Moderator/Designer

    University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
    As a moderator & designer, I steped in to support peers as they complete diverse tasks, such as coordinating design of presentation materials, conducting research or evaluating written content for quality and accuracy.
  • Michelle Jackson

    Michelle Jackson / Project Manager, Liaison

    University of Michigan
    As the Project Manager, I was as the liaison between our Citizen Interaction Design ( Living History team and our partners in Jackson, the Historic District Commission. I ensured that partners received frequent updates about the status of the project, delegated responsibility within the team and facilitated coordination of key tasks.  This, coupled with early recognition of project and resource parameters, in turn, led to the development of a sustainable product that can be utilized by multiple stakeholders (e.g. municipal employees, property owners, etc) and serve as a model for others seeking to enhance citizen information access.

    Take away points:

    Encouraging team members to contribute in ways in which they can utilize their strengths enhances coordination within the group and provided team members with a sense of ownership. 

    The sustainable model is often a simple one.
  • University of Michigan School of Information

    University of Michigan School of Information

    University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


Interaction Design, Information Architecture, Social Causes

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