Social Capital Walkingshed Maps

For a portion of the social impact study, I wanted to think about how location impacts the network of relationships we have with one another, also known as social capital (see lengthier description below). I created maps of the potential school sites and showed the areas around them that are within 10 or 20 minutes walking distance (a maximum of one mile driving, if you’d rather think about it that way). Then I tried to think of things that are within those areas that could be of benefit to students, staff, or parents.

My opinion/perspective can only go so far, however. I haven’t yet thought of a good way to account for potential future social capital, so if you have one, please share. What do you think of the maps? Did I leave anything out? Please leave your comments!

Current Central

Southern Fringe


Country Fair

Boulder Ridge

North Fringe



“Social capital” is a term used to describe the value of social networks. It refers to the formal and informal linkages that people make with one another for both private and public benefit. We increase our connectedness with one another by joining organizations such as the Parent Teacher Student Association or the high school soccer team, or informally in the random daily interactions we have with people on the bus, in the park, or at the grocery store.[1]

In the consideration of the future of the high schools in Champaign, many of the formal structures within the school that help people to build their networks will be the same regardless of the school’s location. A high school will likely have a marching band, a theater program, a softball team, and a math club no matter where it is located. Depending on the type of facilities that the District chooses to construct, there could be modest additions to current programming, such as the addition of a lacrosse team or a technology club.

Outside the walls and grounds of the high school, opportunities for social interaction may vary significantly based on its location. Although it is extremely difficult to measure social capital, an assessment of formal and informal spaces for interaction in a given area is one way to make a comparison between different parts of the community. Amenities in the area serve as resources not only for the high school students, but also for parents and staff who may be able to combine trips to the school site with other errands.[2]

The areas shown in the “walkingshed” maps below are the neighborhoods within a ten or twenty minute walk from each proposed school location. Many high school students do not drive either for economic or age reasons, thus the ability to walk to other places is an important consideration. Students are able to be more independent when they can take care of their own transportation. Some of the sites may not be of interest to students, but do bring together adults who may or may not have any connection to the school but nonetheless participate in the structure of the neighborhood.

An additional point of reference is the measurement of total number of people living near the school. Neighbors of the school have the chance to interact with students as they pass by (either positively or negatively). Parents of students living near to the school may find it easy to drop in for a conference with a teacher or to attend a performance. Some other adults such as retirees or alumni enjoy the opportunity to visit the school for special events. Furthermore, property values near to schools tend to be higher because of their value as community resources.

While these measures of social capital are imperfect, they do help to illustrate the very real differences in the feel and function of each potential neighborhood and the chances for interaction among community members. As community members weigh options for the future of the high schools, walkingshed maps can be used as discussion starters.

[1] Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon and Schuster, 2000.

[2] Amenities in the area were located using, which measures the walkability of a neighborhood based on the assets located within one mile of a given intersection. The site returns a limited number of assets in each category, thus some sites have “more than 15 restaurants” to indicate the limitation of the website. Additional sites were located using Google Maps and the author’s knowledge of the area as a lifelong resident.


4 thoughts on “Social Capital Walkingshed Maps

    • Sorry about that Robert! If you hold your mouse over the pull-down menu, the sites should show up. I’ve also added direct links on this page. I restructured the site a bit the other day and didn’t realize I had made it less accessible.

  1. These are great assessments of the proposed locations, and frankly I was having a hard time even finding out where exactly these sites were. Maybe I missed something from Unit 4, but in any case, thank you.

    If Central must move, Country Fair seems like the best option to me. It’s hard to see any real future for that site as a significant retail location, it’s decently connected to the city core via public transit and viable bicycling routes, and the proximity to Centennial might help incorporate some of the best aspects of the one big high school proposal while maintaining the value in two separate schools.

    Holly, may I ask whether there’s been any discussion of using the former McKinley YMCA as an adjunct to the existing Central site? I didn’t go to school here, so I don’t know Central’s layout very well, but if there were some way of shifting the sports and PE facilities north and repurposing those parts of the existing campus as new classroom space, that might well kill two birds with one stone. The current gym at the Y is not nearly big enough to replace the fieldhouse, though.

    • Thanks for the comment Michael. There has been some discussion of using the YMCA, although not as much recently. The Board took that option off the table formally several months ago. It’s definitely something I still hear community members talking about though. I think the trickiest thing about staying onsite is the sheer number of acres that many would like for a high school site. Centennial has about 36 acres. Central has 6.5 and with the Y site would maybe be up to 10. So putting in things like a football/track complex or baseball/softball/soccer fields would be very difficult to do in the current location. I think it all depends on what we decide our priorities are, as a community.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s