Placemaking in Action: REALTORS® Making Places

Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS®

ACBR participated in a charrette, a collaborative process that allows a variety of project stakeholders to participate in local planning and design decisions,to determine the fate of a large but underutilized parking lot on the seven-acre site at the MARTA station at Edgewood/Candler Park. The fenced parking lots and deteriorating sidewalks created a barrier between the station and an adjacent park, and isolated the station from nearby multifamily and retail sites. The charrette’s outcome indicated the community’s desire for green space and civic areas. As the development gets underway, members of the Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS® may be taking on a new role at Edgewood — that of leasing brokers.

Michigan Association of REALTORS®

In 2012, with funding from NAR, the Michigan Association of REALTORS® awarded $20,000, in Placemaking grants to nine applicants from the Greater Lansing Area. Grants of $500 to $2,500 were given to projects for the first phase of MAR’s Lighter Quicker Cheaper (LQC) Placemaking initiative.

Here are a few of those projects that had a REALTOR® sponsor, a clear concept, and a community-wide resolve to see it through:

  • Historic Dimondale Walking Tour: Residents and visitors alike can take a walking tour of Dimondale and learn about historic places and events from new signs posted at half-mile intervals. New benches will also be installed for rest and reflection.
  • Trowbridge Village Neighbor Station: Amidst the hustle and bustle of Michigan State’s south campus, the Trowbridge neighborhood will build on past efforts to establish a small free library, and comfortable place for residents of all ages to relax, learn and share.
  • Barnes Street Community Garden: Leveraging help from multiple local groups and volunteers, a new community garden and gathering area will enable neighbors to grow fresh produce and enjoy art in the company of friends.

The program has now been expanded to seven regions in the state of Michigan, with additional grants to be awarded.

Medina County Board of REALTORS®

The Board provided support to the Village of Seville (Ohio) to develop a strategy to alleviate blight and attract increased foot traffic in the downtown area.

In particular, they were focused on how to reduce commercial real estate vacancy, and what to do with the recently vacated elementary school building, which had served as a downtown anchor and a vital part of village life.

With an NAR Smart Growth Action Grant, The National Main Street Center® visited Seville, met with stakeholders, and produced a report with recommendations. A major recommendation was to build on the asset of the town’s several antique shops and craft stores by recruiting others. This has been a success, and now most of the commercial vacancies have been filled.

High Point Regional Association of REALTORS®

Twice a year, the population of High Point, North Carolina doubles for a week when it hosts the High Point Market, the world’s largest home furnishings trade show . But the pattern of bi-annual income spikes, though predictable, it is not a viable economic model for the city, whose central downtown area with its vast acres of parking — necessary only two weeks of the year — has been suffering substantial blight in recent decades.

In May 2013, High Point was the subject of a planning charrette, a series of concentrated strategy sessions conducted by renowned architect and urban planner Andrés Duany, a specialist in revitalizing city centers. The week-long program was sponsored in part by an NAR Smart Growth Grant secured by the High Point Regional Association of REALTORS®, working with The City Project, a grassroots partnership of city government, the local business community and concerned citizens. Its mission is to develop High Point based on principles of smart growth, creating an urban area filled with economic health, local quality of life, and community pride.

During the charrette, High Point’s disproportionate downtown parking situation became a focus for lively discussion. Exciting ideas emerged, from staging outdoor concerts and events, to farmers markets, to temporary shipping container festivals, to crafts fairs inspired by the workmanship of High Point’s historic furniture industry. The city now has a lot to think about — and implement. The hope is that by making the parking area contribute to a walkable downtown district, people who are drawn to the venue will want to stick around and visit nearby businesses, shops, and restaurants.

Kevin McCarthy, REALTOR®

The Westchester County Association in New York, in partnership with Blueprint for Westchester and the county’s Young Professionals Group, hopes to revitalize some of the county’s parks, downtown areas, commercial corridors, train stations, office parks, industrial districts and waterfronts to improve Westchester’s housing and lifestyle landscape by giving it a sense of place. Key stakeholders will be considering pop-up cafes and restaurants, and cultural offerings, as well as repurposing current inventory such as Westchester’s commercial space. Taking an active lead in this Placemaking initiative is REALTOR® Kevin McCarthy, a commercial real estate broker and a founding member of Westchester County Association’s Young Professionals Group. Kevin became involved in this project to help re-purpose and transform Westchester County, and as someone working in the industry, he feels he is at the front lines of what can reshape the current parameters of commercial real estate in Westchester County. Kevin says that, “As a REALTOR®, I have the unique opportunity to sit with local municipal leaders, landlords, tenants, and prospects and educate them on the changing expectations of commercial real estate and its use. Through this process I can help shape and grow local neighborhoods and submarkets into vibrant communities.”

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