Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

COVID-19: We Can't Take Public Space for Granted

Phil Myrick, CEO, Project for Public Spaces. Reprinted from the e-newsletter of Project for Public Spaces. You can subscribe here.

It’s so easy to take public space for granted. It’s all around us, and we use it every day to commute, to do our errands, to meet friends, family, neighbors and strangers. But like so many things, we only really appreciate the full value of public space when it has been taken away from us.

As the COVID-19 pandemic proceeds, public life has had to shrink to ensure that the virus ceases to spread through our communities. We all must practice “social distancing” to protect the people around us, and that means that although we will miss them dearly, our parks, plazas, markets, streets, and other public spaces must go dormant for now.

But times like this are also important moments of reflection. What value does public space offer in a lockdown?

For one thing, if past crises hold any wisdom for us, we can expect that the places that have the strongest public life are currently benefiting from the strongest support networks. As sociologist Eric Klinenberg has argued, this social infrastructure is vital to ensuring that all of us weather disasters well, and even though we cannot gather in person during this crisis, one can already see the creative local responses taking shape around the world, fueled by social capital that has built up over time.

Yet despite these inspiring efforts here and there, most communities in the United States were already facing an epidemic of loneliness that has left us fragile. Now, we face not only an economic recession, but a social recession that will prey on the most vulnerable among us. Although it seems a long way off now, this is why public space must play a key role as we recover from this pandemic. We have a duty to rebuild our communities to be more resilient by investing in welcoming, lively, meaningful public spaces for all.

In the meantime, Project for Public Spaces will continue its work, planning and designing public spaces with the people they impact most, and equipping placemakers like you with the knowledge and tools you need to strengthen your community through public space:

  • Today we published an article with guidance for public space managers on what they can do to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • When it comes to our upcoming How to Create Successful Markets training and Walk/Bike/Places conference, we are monitoring the situation closely, and will keep you updated on any delays, cancellations, or shifts to an alternative format.
  • We continue to work with our many local partners to implement on-the-ground placemaking projects, including our recently announced partnership with Claritin on the Clarity Parks project to rebuild parks after natural disasters.
  • In the coming month, we plan to announce additional resources to support you—from a safe distance—during this time of need. Do you have questions you need answered or stories you would like to share? Contact us at media@pps.org.

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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
opportunities.

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.

Diversity
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.