Written by Courtney Rudat, Community Outreach Coordinator, Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® (GLAR)
REALTORS® don’t just sell homes, they help build communities. And Greater Lansing agents are proving this right one park at a time.
The Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® is driving its placemaking initiative with an Adopt-A-Park program. As part of the program, the Association adopts a neighborhood park annually to create a community destination and gathering place in the community.
Members first start out by brainstorming creative ideas and then implement their ideas by investing both money and sweat equity into a project. The results are long-term, engaging public spaces which help enrich local youth.
Our first major project was creating a music and sensory garden at Edmore Park in Lansing in 2017. This interactive garden included a music and sensory fence with pots, pans and other household “instruments” attached to one side, and an original urban mural created by a local REALTOR® on the other side. The garden also included a custom-built PVC pipe xylophone. Everything was designed, built and installed by REALTOR® and Affiliate members.
To complement the curb appeal of the park, many beautiful flowers were planted on the park grounds, thanks to the Association’s partnership in the City of Lansing’s Neighborhoods-In-Bloom program.
At the end of the day, the project turned out beautifully and the neighborhood kids couldn’t wait to make their own music.
In 2018, the Association took on a different type of park. On a residential street in an underserved neighborhood, among a collection of family homes, stood the J&K General Store at 538 Isbell. The J&K General Store was the center of the largest drug bust in Lansing’s history. When the store was demolished, an empty lot lingered behind.
A group of neighborhood kids decided to take this dead zone and turn it into a positive gathering space. With motivation, hard work and leadership, the kids received a $5,000 grant from the City of Lansing to enhance the empty lot.
After tending to some tedious manual yardwork; signing a lease to rent the lot; and building a pavilion, community message board and a fence, they had run out of money, but not ideas.
Our Association was so inspired by their efforts that we committed to help them out.
Our members spent months on planning a Pop-Up Park Party to coincide with the summer break. On a hot and sunny Friday in June, REALTOR® and affiliate volunteers came together to get their hands dirty to start working on the lot. Volunteers constructed a volleyball net; painted a Little Free Library and a game board on a picnic table; installed a permanent hopscotch game in the ground; and set up various yard games all of which would remain in the neighborhood for the kids to continue to enjoy after the party.
Local artists painted a beautiful mural on the fence including a section with chalkboard paint for the kids to display their own masterpieces. Deck boxes were constructed and installed to secure sporting equipment and yard games.
The following Sunday, the first weekend after school was dismissed for the year, the Association hosted the Pop-Up Park Party. Food was provided to the neighborhood through a local food truck and fresh popcorn was served.
As soon as the event started, kids wandered over from their houses across the street and began a game of ladder golf with a couple of our REALTOR® members. Before anyone knew it, the park was filled with neighbors enjoying lunch, reading books, playing games, and having conversations. A group of kids that had been playing basketball in the street also made their way to the park and began a game of volleyball.
At the end of the day a young girl crossed the street with three books in her arms and donate them to the Little Free Library. It was clear that this was a close-knit neighborhood that had been in dire need of a place like this to gather, play, and socialize.
Needless to say, this unique Adopt a Park project was a huge success thanks to funds raised by our members and some assistance from a National Association of REALTORS® placemaking grant.
In the years to come, the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® aims to continue activating spaces into engaging community gathering places by extending its placemaking goals beyond an annual Adopt-A-Park program to cover more than one project. We are already looking forward to 2019.