Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

We all know Placemaking is a great way to create vibrant public places for the community to gather but did you know it can also help to manage Federal, state and local environmental requirements.

Paved, vacant lots in urban centers can be more than just an eyesore — they can do environmental damage by trapping heat and adding to the problem of polluted runoff washing into creeks and rivers, and other water sources.

In Baltimore, MD, the Growing Green Design Competition, launched in 2014 in conjunction with the Growing Green Initiative, was created as an opportunity for community groups, design firms, nonprofits, and private partners to showcase innovative ideas for transforming vacant lots and blighted properties in Baltimore City communities. The Green Pattern Book—the Growing Green Initiative tool used to guide the greening of vacant land, was used to assist applicants. The book outlines eight different project types, or "patterns," for stabilizing and re-using vacant land while reducing stormwater runoff and providing community benefits such as urban agriculture or green space.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says small changes to vacant lots can make huge differences to struggling neighborhoods.  "There's nothing productive about an asphalt covered lot. We know we have EPA requirements to meet, we also know that we have a community that wants better, and is willing to work for it. So by making this investment we're meeting our EPA requirements, we're getting rid of impervious surfaces and we're doing it in a way that empowers a community."

The Chesapeake Bay Trust, a nonprofit organization that awards grants to advance green infrastructure and improve community engagement in environmental issues, managed the applications and organized the selection process.

"Every year, the Chesapeake Bay Trust manages hundreds of grants that seek to better our neighborhoods and improve local water quality," said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. "The Growing Green Design Competition will transform the environment of several communities in Baltimore, providing brand new, rare green spaces and benefitting local residents and visitors for years to come."

Take a look at the Growing Green Design Competition 2014 winning projects.  Perhaps you will get inspired to do the same in your community.

Bridgeview/Greenlawn Community Enhancement Project, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Bridgeview/Greenlawn Community Enhancement Project (2306 Riggs Ave) will remove a large amount of existing impervious surface to create a community managed open space that treats stormwater with a large rain garden.

The space will include a variety of native vegetation including trees, shrubs, and grasses that will provide beneficial habitat for urban wildlife as well as providing educational opportunities for the community, school children, and faith groups.

Civic Works, Dayspring Green Parking Lot

This project will transform the Dayspring Green Parking Lot into a pocket park with usable space for visitors and locals. The project will provide artfully designed, communal green space that will decrease storm water runoff, increase filtration for water contaminants, remove impervious surfaces, and serve as a model for other green parking sites.

Jane's House of Inspiration, The A-MAZE-N Recovery Fruit Garden

The A-MAZE-N Recovery Fruit Garden aims to build a garden on an abandoned lot in northeast Baltimore. The main objectives of this project are to increase access to fresh food for residents, to educate community members about healthy food choices, and to beautify the neighborhood.

Hollins Roundhouse Association, community green space

This project entails repurposing two vacant corner lots into a green space that can be used for passive recreation by community members as well as a public arts and entertainment space while providing storm water management.


Civic Works, The Gateway Garden

The Gateway Garden will be an ornamental, interactive ecological community green space. Main project objectives include stormwater filtration and runoff management, drinking water filtration, the creation of a welcoming entrance to the community, a children's walk-through to school, a wildlife habitat, an educational demonstration garden, and a showcase for public art.

Real Food Farm, Flower Factory at Broadway East

Real Food Farm's Flower Factory at Broadway East employs community-minded design principles to integrate stormwater management and a new brand of urban agriculture: cut flower production. The Flower Factory will provide passersby—residents and visitors alike—with a welcoming introduction to the neighborhood.

Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, Peace Park

This project seeks to redevelop two adjacent lots to create a Peace Park, helping to revitalize the community. This project will unite a cross-section of partners to create a colorful, functional, environmentally conscious and sustainable site that will serve as a gathering place for members of the community.




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.

Comment Policy

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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.