Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

AARP Community Challenge Winners Can Inspire Placemaking Project Ideas

Placemaking is a term used to describe anything from painting a mural to building a mixed-use development project. NAR’s Placemaking Grant,as part of its grant criteria, defines placemaking as transforming unused, underused and unwelcoming sites into vibrant public places for the whole community.

NAR does get inquiries and applications that focus on enhancing existing public spaces like parks or trails. However, the NAR grant does not fund adding amenities, like benches or signs, to existing public spaces.

But there are other funding sources including crowdfunding platforms like and as well as America Walks Community Change Grants and AARP Community Challenge Grant. So, if your project doesn’t meet the criteria of NAR’s Placemaking Grant, you should look into one of these funding sources.

As for this year’s AARP Community Challenge Grant, nearly $3.2 million is being distributed to fund 244 quick-action projects across the country, helping urban, rural and suburban communities make immediate improvements and jumpstart long-term progress to support residents of all ages.

AARP Community Challenge Grant Projects

Below are some projects that were funded by the AARP Community Challenge Grant along with the reason (in bullets) as to why they would not meet the criteria of NAR's Placemaking Grant. If you are considering doing something like this next year, you may want to consider applying for an AARP Community Challenge Grant.

Foley, AL

Foley Main Street, Inc.

Musical instruments will be added to an existing pocket park so people of all ages can play and organizations can stage public performances.

  • Adds amenities to an existing public space

Camp Verde, AZ

Town of Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Division

Seating is lacking along several key stretches of the Town of Camp Verde Sport Complex. Challenge funds will be used to place benches along the 1.6-mile Perimeter Loop Trail and around a pond.

  • Adds amenities to an existing public space

Wilmington, DE

Wilmington Alliance

Sculptural bicycle racks designed by local artists will enhance community spaces and the city's cycling infrastructure.

  • Multiple amenities (benches, bike racks) installed along a multi-site area (street, trail)

Estherville, IA

City of Estherville

Playground swings suitable for users of varied ages, skills and sizes will be installed at parks throughout  the city.

  • Multiple amenities (benches, bike racks) installed along a multi-site area (street, trail) and adds amenities to an existing public space

Stanton, IA

Stanton Community Foundation

In honor of the town’s Swedish history, Swedish-themed mile markers will be installed along the Stanton Greenbelt Trail.

  • Adds amenities to an existing public space

Loogootee, IN

Loogootee Beautification Board

A large mural by a local artist will be installed on the side of an abandoned building that's being renovated as a multi-use community space.

  • Does not create a new public space

Bath, ME

Age-Friendly Communities of the Lower Kennebec | City of Bath

Outdoor chess-and-checker tables will be installed in a public plaza and along downtown streets.

  • Multiple amenities (benches, bike racks) installed along a multi-site area (street, trail) and adds amenities to an existing public space

Newport, NH

Town of Newport

Recreational wayfinding signs and trail kiosks will be installed to increase and improve visits to the town’s trail system.

  • Adds amenities to an existing public space

Chillicothe, OH

City of Chillicothe

As part of an established plan to improve the Chillicothe Transit System, this project will install artistic, accessible bus stop structures that can help to improve social connections among passengers.

  • A bus stop is not a destination/gathering spot but part of transit infrastructure

Eufaula, OK

City of Eufaula

The “Musical Walk Project" will help enliven a downtown area by installing outdoor musical equipment along a pathway and at points of interest in the community.

  • Multiple amenities (benches, bike racks) installed along a multi-site area (street, trail)

Charleston, SC

City of Charleston — Keep Charleston Beautiful Program

Hampstead Square, the city's oldest public green space, will receive much-needed improvements, including an irrigation system, new landscaping and a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

  • Enhances an existing public space

Green River, UT


An age-friendly green space with accessible trails, seating and shade will be installed at Canal Commons, a housing development for people with limited incomes.

  • Isn’t accessible to the whole community

Find below some of the projects that would have qualified for the NAR grant. REALTOR® Associations could have partnered with others in their communities to help build these projects. The examples below may also give you some ideas for a placemaking project in your community.

Level 2 Grant Project Ideas

Willcox, AZ

Willcox Theater and Arts, Inc.

An unused lot in the downtown historic district will be transformed into a courtyard that celebrates the area's heritage and character through art installations, features accessible walkways and provides seating so visitors can enjoy and interact in the new space.

Miami, FL

City of Miami

The creation of “Historical Storytelling Fitness Paths” in local parks will include signage that promotes healthy behaviors by sharing stories about the city as experienced and told by older Miamians.

Honolulu, HI

Better Block Hawaii

The installation of parklets in Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood will support local businesses as they recover from the pandemic, improve safety and livability, and demonstrate how parklets fit with and can enhance the city's transit development plans.

Hidden Springs, ID

Hidden Springs Town Association

The creation of an all-weather path for the Hidden Springs community and greater Treasure Valley will provide an outdoor recreational option for all ages along scenic riparian trails, a community farm and agricultural fields.

Peoria, IL

Phoenix Community Development Services

The Madison Mural Project will turn an urban alley into an inviting, outdoor gathering space with seating and lighting.

Des Moines, IA

Des Moines Historical Society — Waveland Trolley Loop Project

A park and interactive trolley sculpture will be created on a vacant, long-neglected site. The revitalized space will feature informational signage about the Waveland Trolley (which ceased operations in the 1940s) and life in Des Moines during the early 20th century.

Indianapolis, IN

Transforming a vacant lot alongside a neighborhood center will create a community orchard with native shade trees, benches and accessible pathways.

Abbeville, LA

Abbeville Main Street

Challenge funds will support the installation of a walking trail and fitness stations in the Lafitte Drive-In Park.

Portland, ME

Portland Downtown

The grant-funded project will activate blighted alleyways with murals that use old doors, lighting, greenery and creative overhead treatments to turn the corridors into engaging multiactivity spaces.

East St. Louis, MO

Citizens for Modern Transit

Grant funds will be used to transform a transit station into an active space that promotes bus and light-rail use, supports creative play and celebrates the history and culture of East St. Louis.

Greensboro, NC

Creative Aging Network-NC/Center for Creative Aging North Carolina

The "Creativity as a Catalyst for Inclusion" project will transform a 10-acre campus into a hub of multicultural and intergenerational art, community gardening and environmental stewardship by installing an "international garden," constructing an outdoor classroom, and hosting programs and events.

Southport, NC

John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation

An outdoor museum within a historic African American cemetery will share and celebrate the contributions made by Black residents.

Imperial, NE

City of Imperial

A vacant alleyway and lot will be transformed into a mini-park with murals, benches, raised garden beds and a mosaic dragon for children to play on.

Omaha, NE


The installation of a mural, community gardens and seating at the southern trailhead of the North Omaha Trail will help turn an unused parking lot into an interactive public space.

Amesville, OH

Village of Amesville

To celebrate the community's status as a "Bee City USA" honoree — a designation bestowed by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation — a large pollinator garden will be planted and used for guided tours and educational classes.

Providence, RI

Providence Community Library

A library lawn will become the location of a staffed, resource-rich park featuring books, games, activities and technology services.

Lynchburg, VA

Downtown Lynchburg Association

An overlooked alley will be transformed into an attractive, artistic and usable public space.

Richmond, VA

Venture Richmond

A custom-designed parklet will provide a neighborhood desperately in need of public gathering spaces with an attractive, safe and shaded destination.

Snohomish, WA

Friends of the Snohomish Library

Funding will support the Snohomish Library Story Trail, an installation of 22 "stations" — each holding pages from a children's picture book — placed along the Centennial Trail.

Appleton, WI

Creative Downtown Appleton, Inc.

A new parklet equipped with solar lights, art, a bike rack and a hand sanitizer station will provide accessible public seating on College Avenue.

Hinton, WV

Summers County Huddle

The creation of a community green space will include a playground for children and a community garden accessible to all residents.

Level 1 Grant Project Ideas

Montgomery, AL

River Region Trails, Inc.

This demonstration project will create protected bicycle and pedestrian lanes on busy streets in the Old Cloverdale district to show the value of walk-bike infrastructure in the neighborhood and city.

San José, CA


An underutilized parking lot in the downtown arts district will be revitalized with a demonstration garden, farm stand, dog park, mobile food vending hub and artistic murals.

Hamtramck, MI

Eastern Michigan University

Challenge funds will be used to temporarily transform a downtown alley into a pedestrian-friendly route and community gathering space. Feedback from the short-term project will be used to inform the final design.

Mansfield, OH

Richland Community Development Group

A temporary linear park will be installed to enliven a downtown road and help residents envision what a permanent connection between the city's Imagination District and Carrousel District.


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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