Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

REALTORS® Build Momentum in Neighborhood Food Desert

Written by: Ida Seitter, Director of Development, Columbus REALTORS®

It is easy to overlook the Milo-Grogan (MG) neighborhood in downtown Columbus (OH). With its seemingly deserted post-industrial landscape and aging homes, it stands in stark contrast to the unprecedented development happening across the city.

But as nearly 140 Columbus REALTORS® members discovered at this year’s REALTOR® Care Day (RCD), the historic MG neighborhood is anything but empty.

Thanks to momentum from the city of Columbus and local nonprofit housing groups to invest in strategic improvements in the neighborhood, this year’s RCD committee quickly realized that REALTORS® could help lead the revitalization, selecting the neighborhood as the 14th annual main RCD project location.

Working closely with both the Milo-Grogan Civic Association and the Milo-Grogan Area Commission, Columbus REALTORS® members identified potential community projects.

The biggest community need? A community garden for MG residents.

The MG neighborhood is essentially an urban food desert with no grocery store within a 10-mile radius and where only a few convenience stores and fast food restaurants dot the landscape. Residents overwhelmingly rely on public transportation to buy quality fresh food. Accordingly, access to nutritious food is a top priority for neighborhood leaders.

RCD committee members started things off by selecting an underutilized parcel, owned by the civic association and located next to a brand-new public transit station for the garden.

They utilized NAR’s Placemaking grant to help fund the creation of the community garden. And on June 6, 2018, Columbus REALTORS® members donated their time and tools to create a dynamic new space for the community. Members volunteered by laying paving stones, constructing multiple grape arbors, and planting flowers and fruit trees.

In addition to the community garden, funds raised by the RCD committee and the Columbus REALTORS® Foundation helped to complete improvements on 17 homes and 1 business, and also provided supplies to the local Boys and Girls Club.

The garden was very much appreciated by neighborhood leaders like Charles Thompkins, Chair of the Milo-Grogan Area Commission who said, “thank you for making REALTOR® Care Day one of the biggest blessings in the Milo-Grogan community… it was truly a day of celebration to be with everyone and to see everyone smiling, helping each other, and doing things for people you never knew until that day.”

Sara Walsh, 2018 President of Columbus REALTORS® echoed Mr. Thompkins enthusiasm, “the power of hard work and determination coupled with a few additional resources and a lot of passion proves REALTOR® Care Day builds bridges of hope with community revitalization and creates friendships that will last a lifetime”.


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.