Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

A Healing Garden in More Than One Way

Written by Jamie McMillen, Vice President of Government Affairs, Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS®

The Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® (ACAR) continually works to enhance its community partner status through various methods. However, the one that seems to have the greatest impact is placemaking.

ACAR’s latest placemaking project focused on the creation of a healing garden/pocket park in the Maple Valley – Copley Road business district of Akron, Ohio. The project was spearheaded by the City’s Great Streets Initiative with support from surrounding businesses, including a couple of Realtors’ offices, Keep Akron Beautiful, and area block clubs and community development corporations.  ACAR used a Placemaking Grant from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to help fund the garden.
The site for the garden, previously an unused and unkempt grassy lot, now features several perennial plants with known healing properties, such as St. John’s Wort and Echinacea, and a small fruit tree orchard. Once the plants grow, the neighborhood residents will be invited to take a snipping for their personal use. Additionally, the lot will feature permanent seating and a place for neighbors to gather to play games like chess.

Before and after images: Akron Healing Garden

Photos courtesy of the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® (ACAR)

ACAR members rallied to help install more than 700 daffodil bulbs, dozens of perennial plants, and several small trees. They also assisted with the distribution of mulch to protect the plants through the winter and provide the site with a finished look. Neighbors shared their excitement and appreciation for the project throughout the workday. Community volunteers, including a local elected official representing that area, contributed sweat equity as well.

ACAR members planting trees and bulbs at the Akron Healing Garden, in the Maple Valley – Copley Rd business district of Akron,OH

Photos courtesy of the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® (ACAR)

ACAR President Beth Rodgers said, “This particular area of West Akron is experiencing a resurgence of young families buying in the neighborhood where they grew up. A recently rebuilt multi-million-dollar public school campus is close to the park.”  Rodgers added, “The healing garden is a true asset to the area and community.”

Sally Johnson, a past president of ACAR, was also on-site to help with the installation. Sally echoed President Rodger’s remarks and noted, “I was so heartened too by those driving or walking by that shared their excitement for this well-planned garden. What a wonderful use of the large vacant lot.”

Placemaking projects, such as this healing garden, have been a great way for ACAR to demonstrate that Realtors® do more than sell houses. Our members care about our communities and want to see all neighborhoods thrive.

Group photo of the ACAR members that volunteered to work on the Akron Healing Garden placemaking project

Photo courtesy of the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® (ACAR)

The timing of this project was significant in that the association had, just months before, been on the opposing side of the City’s Administration highly sensitive property issues. Despite those differences in public policy, all sides can certainly come together and work towards a common goal of transforming this space into a welcoming community amenity. In many ways, this site was both a literal and figurative healing garden. With other vacant lots neighboring this location, ACAR and the community partners look forward to watching this neighborhood continue to transform into a thriving and welcoming area.


Community Outreach Programs

Housing Opportunity Grant
Housing Opportunity Grants support state and local REALTOR® Associations’ affordable housing activities. The goal of the program is to position REALTORS® as leaders in improving their communities by creating affordable housing

Smart Growth Grant
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.

Planned diversity initiatives makes good business sense. REALTOR® Associations with well-planned diversity programs create a stronger sense of community, particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born and minority residents who are moving up the socioeconomic ladder and are buying homes.

NAR Placemaking Resources

Placemaking Guide: A Guide to Transform a Public Space into a Community Place
REALTORS® and state and local association staff can learn the details of Placemaking, the kinds of projects placemaking entails, how to organize them, and where to go for assistance and resources.

Placemaking Webinar Series
Our Placemaking Webinar Series will provide more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® were involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Placemaking Grant
The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces, like pocket parks, trails & gardens, in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less  than $200,000.

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Smart Growth

The healthier a community, the better the environment for REALTORS®. Keeping a community attractive, livable and functioning well is a complex task.