Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Creating a Place within a Place

Sometimes a place exists in a community where it may need some enhancements and improvements to make it more welcoming.    This is a trend I am seeing as I review NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grants applications.   Project requests have included planting trees along a trail; replacing benches in a park; and funding streetscaping projects.

But…would these projects really create a new place for the community to gather?  Not really.  They simply may add or replace something in an existing space – and sometimes that something is more along the lines of a maintenance, infrastructure or beautification project, none of which are projects our grants fund.

So, I was thinking how can we have the grant be used to fund the enhancement of existing places but at the same time meet our requirement of creating a sense of place.

That’s when I came up with the idea of creating a (new) place within a (existing) place.   So what would this look like?


Let’s take the project that focused on planting several trees along a bike/walking trail.   What would that really do?  Yes, trees would provide shade and make the trail look nicer but would it make the trail a place where the community to meet and gather?   How about, if instead, the project focused on creating a little oasis along the trail where folks could rest, relax, meet, eat a pre-packed snack/lunch, check email, etc.?   Would that oasis create more of a sense of place along the trail?


Another project was to replace a couple of benches in a park.   First, the benches didn’t really look like they needed replacement.  Second, as I was looking at the photos of the space, there looked like there was a lot of potential to create another type of place for the community to enjoy.    One idea was to turn the space into a family/play place.   Think of what this space might look like if the benches were painted with a whimsical theme, which would provide a seating area for parents, and another amenity was added like an interactive instrument for the kids to play or a Little Free Library.     These elements would indeed turn this space into a play area within the park and give residents another reason to visit.


And one last example was an application to develop streetscaping in a 3-block area in the downtown commercial area.  Again this project would focus more on maintenance and infrastructure.   But what if the little, sad area below was converted into a parklet or mini-park with seating, tables and other amenities where people could stop to drink their coffee or eat the salad they just bought at the local deli/coffee shop.  Or perhaps they can meet up with a friend after work, shopping or an exercise class.


Do you see the difference?

So if you are planning a placemaking project within an existing place, think outside of the box and think of a way to create a place within a place.


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.