Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Pioneer Valley REALTORS® Engage in their Communities

Written by Ruby Pontbriand, Marketing and Communications Director, REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley

The REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley has taken advantage of NAR’s Placemaking Grant and in the past two years was involved in 4 placemaking projects to help enhance their communities by creating new public spaces for residents.  Here are two of those projects.

When plans got underway for a new Promenade Park in Easthampton (MA), we decided to pitch in.  We heard about a sculpture project as part of the project and thought this would be something to make a reality.

The sculpture, funded with NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant and a contribution from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, is now located in the center of town on a newly installed boardwalk in Promenade Park.    The boardwalk encircles Easthampton’s community pond, a popular site for townsfolk and tourists.  The sculpture serves as a centerpiece for the town’s annual Cultural Chaos which draws thousands each year.  It is an engaging and a welcome addition to the Cultural District’s permanent public art installations.


Brendan Stecchini created the interactive stainless steel sculpture called the “Center of the Universe”.   “As soon as I saw the word interactive I got excited,” said Stecchini. “Since my artwork tends to be fun.” Stecchini’s design combines four highly-polished, megaphones mounted at different heights and angles to a base engraved with a solar compass to indicate the four directions. The artist hopes that people of all ages will stand at the center of the sculpture, using the megaphones to speak out to the world, while simultaneously reflecting on the great scale and magic of the universe surrounding them.

People at Art 2

In another project, REALTORS® helped to bring a symbol of change to a neighborhood with a new community garden.  Gardening the Community (GTC) is a Springfield (MA) based, youth led food justice organization that grows food on formerly abandoned lots in the Mason Square community of Springfield.   GTC was planning a new garden on a lot on Walnut Street in Springfield.  We thought it be great to partner with them and help to fund a garden with NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant.


This new gardening location will serve not only as a place for the local community to plant and grow produce, but also as a meeting place for community outreach, events and a home-base for distributing food.  Tomatoes, beans, lettuce, carrots and flowers will be planted, and a greenhouse will be built so that farming and learning can take place year round.


Gardening the Community and this new location means a lot to the community. Moises Ramos-Hernandez, from Springfield, told 22News, “We’re sort of a symbol for change in the community and change what we could see our community to become.”

In 2015 alone, GTC sold or distributed 21,500 pounds of locally grown, affordable produce to over 400 Springfield families.

We are proud to that we were able to make both of these projects happen and are looking for a new placemaking project in 2017.


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.