Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Pop-ups before Permanent Spaces

This year, NAR’s Placemaking Grant has a level 1 grant for up to $1,500 for pop-up and demonstration projects such as temporary bike lanes, parklets, trails and plazas.  Demonstration and pop-up projects enable a community to test the viability of a program, project or plan before making large political or financial investments. The intent is then that these types of projects will lead to permanent projects once they are proven to meet the needs of a community.

These projects typically involve community members working together to bring attention to overlooked spaces, address neighborhood issues, or demonstrate things they want changed or improved within a public or sometimes private space such as vacant lots, parking lots, streets and underutized spaces in a community.

But another location idea for a project is at a development site.  Some development sites will develop in the near future, while others may take decades to fully redevelop. As most development will be phased, interim conditions will exist on most sites until the ultimate project build out is complete.

Temporary pop-up park at a development site in Morgan Hill, CA.

AARP refers to demonstration projects as temporary livability projects and offers a Pop-Up Demonstration Tool Kit which uses a three-month timeframe to illustrate a new idea, proposal or desired enhancement which can be more quickly understood, supported and achieved through a demonstration project.

Others refer to these types as tactical urbanism which are designed to provide low-cost, temporary built-environment changes that can transform public spaces to vibrant, activity-oriented destinations and calm traffic.

Tactical urbanism projects can be created by residents or community activists on the fly or, they may be sponsored by departments of transportation or public works, as part of public outreach for a corridor or master planning process.  Whether officially sponsored or not, these types of projects are typically heavy on volunteers and collaboration and light on budget. See Try Out Placemaking with a Tactical Urbanism Project.

Since the goal of a tactical urbanism project is often to test a design in the short-term that may later become permanent, it’s often not necessary or practical to use long-lasting materials. The Tactical Urbanist’s Guide provides materials and design guidance for Tactical Urbanism projects.  It  includes suggestions for barrier materials and their relative permanence and explores surface treatments, street furniture, landscaping elements, signage and programming.  Duct tape, corn starch paint and sidewalk chalk are great for demos, while spray paint could last long enough for a pilot. For a project that will last a few years, acrylic asphalt paint or street bond pavement coating will do the trick.

Communities of all sizes across the Country are giving demonstration projects a try before jumping into the deep end.

In Louisville, KY, ReSurfaced, a City collaborative initiative, temporarily transformed a 16,000 square-foot vacant downtown lot into a pop-up beer garden, café, and outdoor space.  The event, which was inspired by a similar project in Memphis called the Tennessee Brewery Untapped, aimed to create not just a unique destination for the city, but a point of departure for projects and conversations about revitalizing Louisville’s underused spaces. The commercial success of ReSurfaced also demonstrated the economic potential and benefit of incrementally activating a community’s underperforming spaces.

A building boom in Raleigh, NC has brought thousands of new residents to apartments in downtown. Many of these residents have dogs but don’t have backyards to give their pooches a space to play.  The obvious answer was to build more dog parks, but that solution is a tricky one in a downtown where land is scarce and parks vie for space with other priorities. So Raleigh has embraced a stopgap solution: pop-up dog parks that give dogs a place to play for a day or two.  The pop-up events let parks officials gauge the pros and cons of various locations to determine where to build permanent dog parks.

Residents of Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood created a temporary (4 days) pop-up park that included programmed activities, outdoor movies, music and art. The Crowdus Pop-Up Park helped demonstrate the importance of active, engaging and inclusive public space. The resulting space created a dialogue between the visitors and the neighborhood and organized a space where visitors could learn about Deep Ellum as it spread out before them.  The Crowdus Pop-Up Park can be adapted and evolve differently based on the necessity of the specific neighborhood while still maintaining the ability to host great variety of activities.

And in our own REALTOR® family, the Greater Nashville REALTORS® partnered with the Nashville Civic Design Center to reclaim a public space in a desolate asphalt traffic triangle at the intersection of Gallatin Pike and 11th Avenue in East Nashville. They installed a temporary plaza, crosswalk, and mural. This project highlights an ongoing conversation in Nashville regarding the need for increased safety, public art, and public participation throughout Nashville.  There are now plans underway to make these changes permanent.

Then there is Park(ing) Day in which a pop-up park is only installed for about 8 hours.  Park(ing) Day is an annual worldwide one-day event where citizens convert metered parking spaces into public parks and open spaces, sometimes referred to as parklets.  The day is intended to encourage creative placemaking, particularly in places where access to parks is limited, as well as raise awareness about the importance of walkable, livable, and healthy communities.  Park(ing) day is held the third Friday in September and may be a great way to show the need for more permanent pocket parks in your neighborhood. Check with your local jurisdiction to see if they participate in Park(ing) Day.

See Get Ready for Park(ing) Day.

So, if you, or your city, is not ready to commit to a permanent project, it may be time for install a pop-up or demonstration project to see how your community responds and to see if building a permanent project would then make sense.


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.