Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Congratulations.  You have identified a space to turn around, and are eager to get started, but aren’t really sure what should be done with the space.

As you begin your project, consider starting with petunias!  Short-term actions, like planting flowers, can be a way of not only testing ideas, but also giving people the confidence that change is occurring and that their ideas matter.

First, keep in mind that the community is the expert, a common mantra of the Project for Public Spaces (PPS).   You’ll need to uncover and incorporate their ideas into the project.   What do residents want and need?   What could inspire them to gather and keep coming back? What would help them feel safe?

 “What a community wants” exercise at the Polish Triangle in Chicago.
“What a community wants” exercise at the Polish Triangle in Chicago.








You should also observe how the space is currently used, and by whom.    This will give you an idea of how the space is actually used, or not used, rather than how you think it should be used.   So if folks use a trash can as a place to sit, you know you will need to have seating as part of your plans.

You may want to survey people who are using the space.  Ask them to rate its attractiveness, use, sociability and connections to other areas.  Then ask them to what they would like to see happen to the space.   PPS has developed an exercise called the Place Game to help out with this activity.

PPS also suggests thinking about triangulation which relates to locating elements next to each other to foster activity.   So if you are thinking about sprucing up a bus stop, a bench, trash can and coffee kiosk can create synergy and boost convenience to those waiting for a bus.

You’ll also want to make sure you think about the Power of Ten another PPS concept.  The core of the Power of Ten is that any great place needs to offer at least 10 things to do or 10 reasons to be there such as a place to sit, playgrounds to enjoy, art to touch, music to hear, food to eat, history to experience, and people to meet.

And lastly, don’t forget to check with the city (or property owner) on what can be done, or can’t be done, on the site.

So, are you ready to begin planting your petunias?


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

The opinions expressed in reader comments sections on this website are those of the reader and not NAR or REALTOR® Magazine.

Smart Growth

The healthier a community, the better the environment for REALTORS®. Keeping a community attractive, livable and functioning well is a complex task.