Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

In the previous post, we saw that real estate developers are supportive of and seeing the value of placemaking in creating community, and to their bottom line, by making sure open spaces are included in multi-family and mixed use development projects.

But it also makes sense for REALTORS®   to support Placemaking as the more vibrant public spaces and destinations a community has, the more desirable a community becomes.   And that can lead to an increase in property values.

For the Michigan Association of REALTORS®, the connection between real estate, REALTORS® and Placemaking is clear. Placemaking strategies that include green spaces and cultural amenities can help drive demand in today’s marketplace.  “There is a positive correlation between Placemaking elements and local housing choices,” says Beth Foley, the 2013 Michigan Association of REALTORS® President.

Michigan Association of REALTORS®’ Lighter Quicker Cheaper Challenge reflects on Placemaking projects in Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan Association of REALTORS®’ Lighter Quicker Cheaper Challenge reflects on Placemaking projects in Lansing, Michigan.

And who better to become involved in Placemaking in a community than REALTORS®.   Beth goes on to say that “REALTORS® spend a great deal of time selling ‘place.’  There is no other private sector group better situated to help inform and advance the discussion on Placemaking than the REALTOR® community.”  Kathie Feldpausch, senior vice president of the Michigan Association of REALTORS®, agrees.  “REALTORS® are the eyes and ears of communities and are in the neighborhood all the time,” says Feldpausch.

And REALTOR® Gil White, a Placemaking proponent in Michigan, believes that REALTORS® can help to improve the value and quality of the built environment that either has been built or will be newly developed, or adaptively re-used, by becoming involved in Placemaking in their community.   “Our role as REALTORS® is much greater than simply helping folks buy and sell houses.  We owe it to our clients to help them find or keep their homes in cities, towns and rural communities that have appealing and sustainable plazas, efficient and convenient transportation, walkable main streets, green spaces, thriving shops and cultural amenities.  Those are the qualities of Placemaking that are driving demand in today’s real estate marketplace.”

Columbia Heights (Washington, DC ) public plaza.
Columbia Heights (Washington, DC ) public plaza.

REALTORS® aren’t the only ones who express this view.  The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) believes that real estate professionals can be natural placemakers because they are passionate about their communities and have the communication skills and initiative that can catalyze Placemaking.  Ethan Kent, Vice President of PPS, says “REALTORS® are often among a community’s most engaged and concerned citizens. They can quickly see how a Placemaking approach can generate local commitment and investment, short-term, low-cost improvements and long-term sustainability and resilience.”

As to the value of creating a “sense of place” in communities, REALTORS® are finding that homebuyers and owners are looking to live in places where there are a variety of public spaces – and willing to pay more for homes near those places.

Accordingly to Houselogic, a desirable public park or other recreational open space boosts the property value of nearby homes by 8%-20%.  One study looked at 16,400 home sales within 1,500 feet of 193 public parks in Portland, Ore., and found these boosts to home values:

  • Natural areas: $10,648
  • Golf courses: $8,849
  • Specialty parks: $5,657
  • Urban parks: $1,214

New York City’s Highline.  Photo courtesy of City Lab.

New York City’s Highline. Photo courtesy of City Lab.
  • 29% believed that the existence of the trail would increase the selling price of their home
  • 57% of the residents felt that the trail would make the home easier to sell
  • 57% of these residents had lived in their homes prior to construction of the trail
  • 29% of those surveyed were positively influenced by the trail in their decision to buy the home.


Orlando Urban Trail.   Photo courtesy of Bike Orlando.
Orlando Urban Trail. Photo courtesy of Bike Orlando.

Of the real estate agents interviewed in the same study:

  • 73% believed that a home adjacent to a trail would be easier to sell
  • 55% agreed that the home would sell for more than a comparable home from a different neighborhood
  • 82% of real estate agents used the trail as a selling point
  • 100% believed trails are an amenity to the community around it

So what do you think will be of more value:   a home across the street from a vacant lot or one across the street from a community park?


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.