Placemaking can be undertaken by anyone in a community, but it may be a matter of getting someone like a REALTOR® Association or an individual REALTOR® to take the lead or initiative, to get the idea in motion, make a plan, and find partners and resources.
REALTOR® Associations, and their members, can initiate a Placemaking activity not only to create a place in a neighborhood to enhance and improve it, but also to help increase the value of homes in the community. A Placemaking activity may even help to enhance the image of your REALTORS® association and members.
Think of overlooked, unmanaged, underused and vacant spaces in your community. Beyond their discouraging appearance, many are associated with crime and depressed real estate values. How do these areas affect the value of homes around them? Are homes around these areas more difficult to sell?
Placemaking can be a catalyst to revitalize a neighborhood and make that neighborhood more desirable. It could be a way to re-create a community and to breathe new life into a struggling real estate industry.
Placemaking can also help to strengthen partnerships between REALTOR® associations and communities, organizations, and government. Vacant land is an opportunity for REALTOR® associations and REALTORS® in your community to make a difference by transforming a place where no one goes into one that is a destination.
For the Michigan Association of REALTORS®, the connection between real estate and Placemaking is clear. Placemaking strategies that include green spaces and cultural amenities can help drive demand in today’s marketplace.
REALTOR® Gil White, a Placemaking proponent in Michigan, believes that REALTORS® can help to improve the value and quality of the built environment that either has been built, will be newly developed or adaptively re-used, by becoming involved in Placemaking in their community.
It makes sense for REALTOR® Associations to get involved in Placemaking, because Placemaking begins at the community level, and, “after all, REALTORS® are the eyes and ears of communities,” says Kathie Feldpausch, senior vice president of the Michigan Association of REALTORS®. She believes “real estate is local” and that “REALTORS® are in the neighborhood all the time and are aware of or directly involved with the groups doing these projects. They sell place.”
REALTOR® Associations could also advocate for a change in policies such as lots sizes, road requirements, green spaces, mixed use zoning, etc., and coordinate Placemaking education sessions for members, local officials, developers and lenders. According to Feldpausch, her members are “eager to know more about things like the difference between a green space (park) and a green place (park with social activities).”
Another educational opportunity and a venue to discuss great places in communities could be at local MLS committee meetings. Can the qualities — walkability, parks and green spaces, arts and culture — for which some homebuyers are willing to pay more be incorporated into the listings so that real estate agents and their clients can be aware of them? MLS participants can be part of the process by contributing information.
The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) believes that real estate professionals can be natural placemakers because they are passionate about their communities and have the communication skills and initiative that can catalyze Placemaking. Ethan Kent, Vice President of PPS, says “REALTORS® are often among a community’s most engaged and concerned citizens. They can quickly see how a Placemaking approach can generate local commitment and investment, short-term, low-cost improvements and long-term sustainability and resilience.”
Many Placemaking activities are not that difficult to plan and organize, but it a takes a champion, someone who recognizes the benefits of Placemaking and brings the right folks to the table. Someone has to get the ball rolling. That someone can be your association.