We're expanding! Build your own profile for the Twin Cities region

Steven Aviles

Minnesota Compass Twin Cities 7-county region custom profilesOur geographic profiles and custom mapping feature are among the most popular data tools on Compass.

Now you can create profiles for custom areas in the Twin Cities 7-county region!

Just like the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth custom mapping tools, you can create your own custom geographies, such as a cluster of cities, school districts, or a specified walking radius around an intersection or transit stop within the Twin Cities 7-County region. New geographic layers allow you to quickly combine cities, townships, and school districts.

Compass researcher Steven Aviles explains how, creating scenarios that walk you through a custom build, and providing tips to assist you in using the tool to help you meet your planning and analytic needs.

Build your own geographic profile

You can build your own profile two different ways: using predefined areas or using a draw tool to choose your own geographic boundaries.

Using “Predefined Areas”

When to use this tool

Use the “Predefined Areas” option when you seek information specific to cities and townships, school districts, Minneapolis and Saint Paul communities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul neighborhoods, counties, Zip codes, or Census tracts. The tool will aggregate your selections into one profile.

How to use this tool

First, select one of seven available types of predefined area as building blocks: Cities and Townships, School Districts, Mpls-St.Paul Communities, Mpls-St.Paul Neighborhoods, Counties, Zip codes, or Census tracts. After making your selection, click on the map and choose one or more desired area(s). Note that your selection need not be contiguous– you can profile a combination of areas within your chosen predefined area type. The profile will generate below the map. Please note that each additional selection will add to the existing profile’s total area.

Example, please!

Thoroughly sold on the concept, but a bit unsure about how to get started? Here are a couple of example applications to get the creative juices flowing.

Example #1

You’re a member of an organization that focuses on employment in the East Metro and you need to know what share of East Metro residents work within the East Metro.

Step 1. From the “PREDEFINED AREAS” selection tool, click the “Counties” radio button.  County boundaries will display in the map. 

Step 2. Click on the map to select the three Counties of interest: Washington County, Ramsey County and Dakota County. Note: Each time you make a selection within the map, the tool will indicate that your data is loading in a profile below the map.

Map of East Metro selection

OOPS! In the process of selecting your 3 counties of interest, you mistakenly select Anoka County as well. You can deselect this erroneous county by selecting the “Undo” button.

Step 3. Scroll down to “Resident Workforce” section of your custom profile, locating the “Workers by Employment Location” data to find that 311,498 East Metro residents work in the East Metro, or 57 percent of the total resident workforce for which employment location information is available.

Data table of East Metro workers

Want to share your report with your colleagues to prepare for an upcoming meeting?  You can do this by:

  • Printing the profile and map directly from your browser, designed to be printer-friendly.
  • Saving a soft copy of your custom selection. Click on the “Bookmark or share this profile” below the map, which will generate a unique URL that you can save, share or return to later. Please note: Current limitations to the application prevent the ability to regenerate the custom selection within the map.
Example #2

You are a board member in the Wayzata Public School District and are compiling a profile of your school’s student population for a grant application. You are specifically looking for median income of households within the school district boundary.

Step 1. From the “Predefined Area” selection tool, click the “School Districts” reference layer to aid in identifying your school’s attendance area.

Step 2. Use the zoom tool located in the upper left hand corner of the map to narrow your focus to the Wayzata Public School District, located in the center of Hennepin County.

Step 3. Click on the map to select the Wayzata Public School District area.

Map of Wayzata Public School District selection

Step 4. Scroll down to the “Economy” section of your profile, locating the “Median household income” data to find that median household income in the Wayzata Public School District attendance area is over $91,000. Note: All data appears by default, but you can click on Collapse All to more quickly scroll down, expanding just the category of interest (as shown in the illustration below).

Data table of median household income in Wayzata Public School District

Using the “Draw a Custom Area” tool

When to use this tool

Use the “Draw a Custom Area” option when your scope of analysis does not fall squarely/neatly within the provided “Predefined Areas.”  The custom drawing tool offers the ability to profile geographies such as a cluster of blocks falling across small portions of existing neighborhoods or census tracts, particular transit corridors, or a ring radius around a particular address or intersection.

How to use this tool

Begin by selecting one of the provided “reference layers” as a visual guide for the Twin Cities region, Cities and Townships, School Districts, Mpls-St.Paul Communities, Mpls-St.Paul Neighborhoods, Counties, Zip codes, or Census tracts.

Then select one of the drawing tool options:  “Shape,” “Line,” or “Point” and click on the map to begin drawing.  When finished drawing lines or shapes, simply double-click.

Note that when drawing lines or points, you will need to identify the “Buffer”--or surrounding area of interest--to generate profile results. For example, you might choose a half-mile buffer surrounding a particular street corridor, or “line;” or, alternatively, a one-mile radius buffer around a business address, or “point.”  Your identified geography will appear in the map window, and the profile will be generated below the map.

Example, please!

Example #3

You’re a residential building developer considering developing in the Bloomington South Loop District and you want to know how the market is doing by looking at the vacancy rate for the area.

The “Draw a Custom Area” tool allows you to develop a more precise description of the housing mix in close proximity to the corridor itself.

Step 1. Select the “Draw a Custom Area” tool.

Step 1 for custom area tool

Step 2. For this analysis, you decide to use the Cities and Townships as the reference layer (set as default) to aid in identifying the location of your district of interest.

Step 3. Use the zoom tool located in the upper left hand corner of the map to narrow your focus to the city of Bloomington’s northeast corner where the Mall of America is just north of the National Wildlife Refuge.

Step 4. Select the “Shape” drawing tool from the menu.

Step 5. On the map, begin drawing by clicking the intersection of MN-77 and I-494. Continue the shape going east on I-494 till you hit the Mississippi River. Click to mark a vertex on the Mississippi River and follow the river south while clicking vertices where there is change in direction.

Steps 3-4 for custom area tool

Step 6. Once you hit MN-77, continue your shape going north on MN-77 until you hit your starting vertex. The profile for shape of your district of interest will generate below the map. You can also double-click anytime to close the shape and see the profile.

Step 7. Scroll down to the “Households and housing” section of your custom profile, locating the “Housing Units” data to find that about 11% of housing units are vacant in Bloomington’s South Loop district.

Data table of vacancy rate in Bloomington's South Loop district

Please note: Because the total number of housing units for our custom area falls below 1,500 housing units, the profile is generated based on 2010 Census data, and focuses on population, housing and workforce topics. If you are interested in additional topics, increase the buffer, draw a geography that captures more than 1,500 housing units, or create your profile using the “Predefined Area” profiles.

Example #4

You work for the city of Maple Grove as a city planner and have recently begun your 2018 comprehensive planning. You are developing your land use plan specific to regional parks and are interested knowing the total population and number of renter and owner occupied housing within five miles of the Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Step 1. Select the Draw a Custom Area tool.

Step 1 of custom area tool (Elm Creek Park Reserve)

Step 2. For this analysis, you decide to use the “Cities and Township” Pre-Defined Areas reference layer to orient the identified sites relative to the city of Maple Grove.

Step 3. Using the Zoom tool located in the upper left-hand corner of the map, narrow your focus to the Elm Creek Park Reserve, to a point at which street names are legible.

Step 4. Select the “shape” drawing tool from the menu.

Step 5. On the map, draw the green park area bounded by in Maple Grove. Start at Fernbrook Ln N, go south till you hit Territorial Rd, and follow the green park area east till you hit Zachary Ln N. Go north on Zachary Ln N till you hit 109th Ave N then double-click to finish drawing.

Step 6. Click the Buffer radio button and put "5" in for miles.

Steps 2-6 for custom area tool (Elm Creek Park Reserve)

Step 7. Zoom out to see the extent of your buffered area.

Step 6 for custom area tool (Elm Creek Park Reserve)

Step 8. Scroll down to the first header, Resident Population, and you will find that your area of interest has 176,910 people. Scroll down to the “Housing” section of your custom profile, locating the “Owned and Rental Housing” data to find that out of 65,820 occupied households, 51,117 are owner-occupied and 14,703 are renter-occupied.

Data table of Elm Creek Park Reserve

Build your custom profile now!

Steven AvilesSteven Aviles supports a variety of projects related to Minnesota Compass. Before joining Wilder Research in 2015, Steven worked with the City of Saint Paul, Metro Transit, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation as a GIS intern. Steven holds a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he studied Geography and Urban Studies.

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