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LOVELAND Technologies

1514 Washington Blvd
Detroit, Michigan 48226

Jerry Paffendorf

By Tunde Wey
April 24, 2013

Jerry Paffendorf is tall, and, depending on the season, mightily-bearded with long hair; an almost Jesus-like (or grizzled hippie-like, and for all you Achievers out there, definitely a bit Dude-like) visage that would fit the popular depictions but for his wire frame glasses. It is spring now, and Paffendorf wears a clean-shaven face with locks closer-cropped; more careful grooming that reflects the seriousness his work deserves, a seriousness amply provided by his thoughtful-looking face – when it is not obscured by a happy beard.
Paffendorf’s company LOVELAND Technologies operates in the more recent space of solutions where civic issues and technology intersects. On his blog he describes himself as "an artist, futurist, entrepreneur, and swell guy pouring love into LOVELAND Technologies, the Imagination Station, and related efforts to connect the Internets, maps, fundraising, and storytelling to the making of good, new, and often surprising things." The difference between Paffendorf’s brand of tech-focused civic solutions and others is perhaps its connection to a place, rather than a blind commitment to a technology product; Paffendorf has realized, somewhat from intuition and maybe also from experience, the importance of community participation when implementing solutions.
LOVELAND Technologies, founded in 2009 by Paffendorf, Mary Lorene Carter, and Larry Sheridan, is a software company that does interactive city mapping and crowdsourcing.

LOVELAND has been prodigious in its output, producing a variety of web-based solutions for clients as diverse as Excellent Schools Detroit, Detroit Design Festival and Detroit Public Radio; and also releasing an impressive suite of their own web products including Site Control and One Day in Detroit. However their marquee effort, cheekily-titled Why Don’t We Own This? (WDWOT), marks a rather disruptive break from the city of Detroit’s technologically-addled past.
Paffendorf and his team built WDWOT in 2011 to help residents track the immensely daunting Wayne County Foreclosure Auction, a fire sale of tax delinquent property throughout the county (an overwhelming majority of the foreclosure properties are in Detroit). WDWOT has now grown to provide "year-round property and land use services."
With WDWOT, Paffendorf says his LOVELAND team – which includes recent addition Alex Alsup – has crafted an online service that visually provides "free to access public information about all 340,000 public properties in the city. We show ownership information, tax distress information – a map of who is behind on their taxes – and foreclosure information."
Simply put, WDWOT has put all of Detroit’s property information online and available to anyone with access to the web. WDWOT features a map with residential and commercial properties as well as vacant lots visualized in gridded parcels. The parcels are color-coded to represent their tax status and each property is identified with the corresponding ownership information, property tax status, and foreclosure information. WDWOT also provides foreclosure prevention resources, property tax payment portals, and, during the Wayne County Property Auction, real-time foreclosure auction updates and social channels to comment and connect with others.
The magnitude of benefit such a service as WDWOT could provide is enormous as Detroit struggles with property abandonment, tax foreclosures, and declining property values, all while its residents are confronted with a byzantine and sluggish bureaucratic process.  

LOVELAND succinctly details the scale of the property challenge Detroit faces, stating, "An archive of activity from the 2012 Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction, where 11,972 properties sold to 2,198 bidders for $49,975,566. 8,686 properties went unsold for $500 apiece. Unrecouped taxes from the 2012 auction left Detroit’s property tax revenue gap at $225,546,049." This innocuously-worded statement underscores the hysteria of loss, in revenue, of property values, and most importantly residents, facing Detroit.
Paffendorf lives in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, with his partner Mary Lorene Carter and their dog Pasta Jacob Batman, in the lower half of a cute, older duplex. He works downtown, in a space dubbed The Department of Alternatives; a loose co-working collective of entrepreneurs working on "alternative, market-proven solutions to civic and social issues.” He plays soccer every Tuesday, year-round, with the Detroit City Futbol League, and on some evenings, when he isn’t peering all-consumingly into the phosphorous glare of his much-used laptop, he might be having a quiet drink at the local PJ’s Lager House. While Paffendorf isn’t trying to solve the entirety of Detroit’s foreclosure problem with his impressive – and devastatingly necessary – website, it is important to note that the work he does is rooted in a place he calls home.

Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

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