Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper: Start with the Petunias

After almost a dozen posts, you should now be familiar with placemaking and where to target your placemaking efforts.    The next thing to decide is what you want your space to become.   What would make the best type of gathering place for your community?

A way to get your feet in and test the waters, as well as to expose the community to placemaking, is with something called Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC).   These are low-cost, easy to do, quick to implement hands-on projects.  LQC projects can be proposed and finished in months or even weeks and provide a tangible, beautiful benefit to the community.  And in today’s tough budget environment, they don’t require a lot of resources.  It’s “starting with the petunias.”

Lighter Quicker Cheaper projects include street painting, benches and seating, walking tours/maps, pedestrian walkways & havens, public art sites, outside reading rooms, butterfly and community gardens, bus shelters, micro-parks, parklets and more.

The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) looks at LQC as a way to tap into local talents (e.g. citizens, entrepreneurs, developers, and city staff) to quickly translate a community’s vision into reality and build momentum for further improvements.  As several Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper projects take place in a community, the neighborhood could then become a destination and desirable place to live and visit.     And LQC projects are a great way to get as many residents as possible involved, invested and in charge.

Marisa Novara, Program Director for the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago, sees LQC as one way of dealing with the realities of vacant lots and open storefronts. “When lenders aren’t lending, when buyers aren’t buying, when tax credit investors can’t be found and the desired market doesn’t yet exist, the question becomes what do we do with our unused, underused, misused, abandoned, or under construction public spaces? What do we do, in other words, in the meantime?”   Novara suggests embracing “low-cost, temporary uses” and LQC for these transitional spaces waiting for development.

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is taking place all over the country including in the REALTOR® community.

The Michigan Association of REALTORS®, along with eight industry partners, developed the Lighter Quicker Cheaper Challenge and awarded $20,000 to 9 applicants from the Greater Lansing Area, each with a REALTOR® sponsor.  Seven local REALTOR® Association offices will now hold LQC Challenges in their regions.

LQC in Lansing, MI
Images from the Michigan Association of REALTORS®’ Lighter Quicker Cheaper Challenge reflecting Placemaking projects in Lansing, Michigan.

Listen to a clip from one of the winners of the Challenge describing how a vacant lot was transformed into a farmer’s market to help revitalize a neighborhood.

LQC is great for smaller communities too.  The Merrymeeting Board of REALTORS® (ME) is creating an outdoor “reading room” and community garden space behind the community’s newly built library.

Seating is an important part of Placemaking and a common amenity in LQC projects.  The Kankakee-Iroquois-Ford Association of REALTORS® invited local high school students to build benches and local artists to then paint them for their Art of Sitting project.  The benches were placed in a local farmer’s market but are able to be moved and used for other community gatherings.

The Art of Sitting
The Art of Sitting in Kankakee, IL. Note the plaques indicating the sponsorship of the Kankakee-Iroquois-Ford Association of REALTORS®.

The Art of Siting in Kankakee, IL.  Note the plaques indicating the sponsorship of the Kankakee-Iroquois-Ford Association of REALTORS®.

LQC can be a great way to transform an underutilized space to a vibrant place for a community to gather.  In an attempt to transform an alley, which was recently closed to traffic, the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of REALTORS® (IN) is creating a pedestrian walkway in the alley complete with benches, planters and public art.

And the Ada County Association of REALTORS® (ID) is transforming a concrete space between two buildings into a small pedestrian plaza that will include landscaping and outdoor seating for proposed wine cooperative.

All of these projects were funded with NAR Grants.   If you have the idea for a LQC project, NAR has the resources.  So what are you waiting for?


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.