Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Books Around the Block in St. Paul

“Thank you to the Saint Paul Realtors®, you are spot on in adding this to the neighborhood…it fits right into our neighborhood initiative of doing unusual and interesting things, and is a great way to bring the community together.”  Mayor Stan Karwoski, Oakdale, Minnesota

Little Free Libraries have been popping up all over!  The “take a book, leave a book” movement promotes literacy, recycling and placemaking efforts.  REALTORS® from the Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS® (SPAAR) seized this opportunity to enhance placemaking efforts in the Saint Paul area.

SPAAR’s Books Around the Block project installed Little Free Libraries in three communities in our service area.  This project was a partnership between SPAAR and the Young Professionals Network of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC).  Within SPAAR, the project was led by REALTOR® members and our Community Engagement Committee.

Libraries have been located in Oakdale, Apple Valley and Anoka, Minnesota.  The project was designed to incorporate projects in a range of the communities where SPAAR’s members do business.  Each library reflects the community and area where it is located.

Oakdale’s library is near a new townhome development.  It was designed to reflect the Prairie School lines of the townhomes in the community.

Cardinal Place Little Free Library, Oakdale, MN

Cardinal Place Little Free Library, Oakdale, MN

The Apple Valley library, painted a bright apple red, is near a busy city park, senior center and hockey arena.

Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland at Ribbon Cutting
Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland at Ribbon Cutting

Anoka’s library faces a city street, and is adjacent to a school, park and senior community.  The Anoka library was designed to look like a cottage from a fairy tale---it has a whimsical, curving “thatched” roof.

Fairy Tale Cottage Library in Anoka, MN
Fairy Tale Cottage Library in Anoka, MN

All of the locations are accessible to the public and feature a range of books to suit readers of all ages.  Seating is available at or nearby each location.  And each library also incorporated enhanced landscaping.

The Little Free Libraries were built by students from a Construction Skills Class at Dunwoody Technical Institute.  SPAAR members enlisted the help of community partners to serve as stewards—a Girl Scout Troop, Rotary Builders Club and AVID Program from an area high school.  These stewards will periodically check on the libraries and restock books.  Books for stocking each library are collected by SPAAR’s REALTOR® members.

The Libraries were registered with Little Free Libraries.  Registered libraries are located on an interactive map.  Visitors to the library can use the map and website ( to record comments or to communicate with the library’s steward about maintenance issues.  This registration, identified by a serial number and plaque attached to each library, shows that the library is part of a national effort to promote literacy and build communities.


After installation, each of the libraries was presented to the city.  REALTORS® appeared at City Council meetings to request the Councils to receive the libraries, or to recognize them as city amenities.  This was a great opportunity for SPAAR’s members, and produced lots of positive publicity.  The libraries were also presented to the community with public ribbon cutting events that featured remarks from elected officials and root beer floats.

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SPAAR has received lots of positive feedback from Books Around the Block.  We have received suggestions from members for additional communities and locations where additional Little Libraries would be welcome.  A second phase of the project is planned for 2017.



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.