Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS® Brings Community Together Through Gardening at New Lee District Community Center

NVAR leveraged an NAR Placemaking grant to help transform an unused space into a public garden for community education, use and enjoyment.

The Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS® (NVAR) has partnered with Fairfax County, Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District to bring an innovative community garden project to Southern Fairfax County on the west side of Richmond Highway in Alexandria. The community garden will be used to teach small-scale sustainable gardening skills to families throughout the neighborhoods in the Buckman Road and Audubon Avenue area at the new Lee District Community Center.

People in Northern Virginia building a community garden

Photo courtesy of the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®

“Food insecurity is one of the most persistent problems in our community—a problem that is compounded by the fact that the food that is most readily available is rarely fresh or nutritious,” said Supervisor Lusk. “This is precisely why I have partnered with NVAR, Arcadia and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District to bring a community garden to the residents who live on the Richmond Highway Corridor.”

On Friday, April 15, Realtors® joined Supervisor Lusk, community members, and project partners to kick-off the project with initial construction and soil preparation. Features including additional raised beds, fencing and seating will be added in the coming weeks as planting continues throughout the spring and summer. See all of the photos from the build-day here!

People planting in a community garden on the west side of Richmond Highway in Alexandria, VA

Photo courtesy of the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®

NVAR was able to leverage resources from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) through a Placemaking Grant Program to help transform the unused space next to the community center into a vibrant, accessible public destination for community education, use and enjoyment. NVAR is funding the construction and preparation of the garden site, including aluminum raised garden beds, fencing, benches, topsoil, compost, tools, and more.

“Realtors® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in our work to make Northern Virginia the best place to raise a family,” said NVAR President-Elect Heather Embrey, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Premier speaking at the project build-day. “The community garden project is one tangible, immediate opportunity to address an area in Fairfax County in need of enhancement and revitalization. Placemaking projects like this foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities, and create places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better. The new community center will be a valuable resource for the whole community, and we hope this garden project will be add to the overall effectiveness of the space. NVAR is honored to be a small part of this effort.”

People with shovels in a community garden on the west side of Richmond Highway in Alexandria, VA

Photo courtesy of the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®

Supervisor Lusk added, “Thanks to NVAR’s generous financial support, as well as the programmatic support of our other partners, residents who live along the Richmond Highway Corridor, will gain the confidence to both utilize healthy ingredients in their diets, but also be empowered to eventually grow them at their own homes. My hope is that this project will eventually evolve into a mobile market, with a community growers’ program, that will create jobs and increase access to healthy food along the Richmond Highway Corridor.”

NVAR staff and partners in community garden on the west side of Richmond Highway in Alexandria, VA

Photo courtesy of the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®

NAR offers Placemaking Grants to state and local Realtor® Associations around the country to create new public spaces and destinations in a community, such as turning a parking spot into a people spot (parklet) or a vacant lot into a pocket park or garden. The grant was designed by NAR to help associations partner with communities and neighboring organizations to plan, organize, implement and maintain Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper placemaking projects. To find out more about National Association of Realtors® placemaking program visit


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.