Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Pedestrian Plaza Helps Transform Belleville Transit Center

With support from an NAR Placemaking Grant, the REALTOR® Association of Southwestern Illinois spruced up a local transit center.

Commuters in Belleville, Ill., now have a bright, vibrant pedestrian plaza with live greenery thanks to the REALTOR® Association of Southwestern Illinois (RASI). Working in partnership with Citizens for Modern Transit, AARP, the St. Clair County Transit District, and the City of Belleville, RASI helped to create a greenspace/arts plaza around the Belleville Transit Center for commuters to enjoy.

The original site was dilapidated and drab. “When we arrived late last year, we were faced with a lot of grey space,” said Kimberly Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit.

RASI and their team of collaborators worked with the theme “Art Grows in Belleville” to transform the concrete area between the bus bays and the MetroLink train entrance into an interactive, colorful, and engaging space. New custom bike racks now offer cycling commuters who wish to “park and ride” a green alternative. Brightly colored red-and-yellow shade structures provide shelter from the sun. New bright-blue benches expand seating options.

And all throughout the pedestrian plaza, there is eye-catching artwork and live greenery to engage the senses. A swirling, colorful mural leads from the crosswalk to the plaza. Artwork by award-winning painter and mixed media artist Genevieve Esson adorns the windows of the MetroLink entrance. Plants and permanent planters provided by RASI and a $5,000 NAR Placemaking Grant added a touch of nature to liven up the concrete space. RASI members also raised additional funds and participated in a community planting day to install the flowers and plants.

After months of hard work, the revitalized transit center was unveiled on June 26, 2022 with a celebration that included remarks by local officials and stakeholders, special recognition of local high school volunteers, and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event was capped off by a live musical festival featuring local bands.

The “Art Grows in Belleville” project is the second placemaking project RASI has done in collaboration with Citizens for Modern Transit, AARP, and St. Clair County Transit District. The first was a greenspace/arts plaza at the Emerson Park Metro Station in East St. Louis, Ill., in 2021. With help from a $5,000 NAR Placemaking Grant, RASI contributed pavement art to the project that told the story of jazz and the blues in East St. Louis. “The transformation at the Emerson Park Transit Center and now the Belleville Transit Center in St. Clair County have been really remarkable,” said Herb Simmons, Chair of St. Clair County Transit District’s Board of Trustees. “Aside from being visually appealing, each has helped to further foster community. We look forward to partnering on other transformations in the future.”

RASI staff and members also chose the Belleville project with the hope of assisting an underserved area. The transit site is predominantly used by minority communities for their commuting needs. “The goal of the project was to help with beautification and to make the site more welcoming,” said Ron Deedrick, Local Government Affairs Director for the Illinois REALTORS®. “These days more commuters are using mass transit to help with high fuel costs—which disproportionately affect minority communities. We wanted to help with renovation and make the site more attractive to commuters in the region.”


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

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