Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

REALTORS® as Creative Placemakers

Written by
Suzanne Ishee, REALTOR®, Keller Williams Mid-Town Direct, Maplewood, NJ
President, Center for Creative Placemaking at Bloomfield College, NJ

“Creative Placemaking?  What in the world does that have to do with me?  My field is real estate, not the arts and culture!   But….on second thought, I’m hearing a lot of talk these days about how the arts are making downtowns more vibrant and attracting more businesses.  And my clients do like to meet their friends in ‘happening’ places.  I keep seeing this ‘Creative Placemaking’ term pop up and it seems to be equated with a lot of positive impact on local economies.  And I know the big buzz word right now is ‘sustainability.’   Better quality of life throughout our neighborhoods?  Happy business people?  Smart growth?  Wait, maybe there is more to this than I first thought.

Does this sound like you?  Perhaps you have been curious about those murals that are being painted at the commuter rail station and have wondered who was behind all of that.  Are there any empty storefronts in town or ugly vacant lots?  Do you just pass by, shaking your head and thinking it’s a shame.

Trenton Mural Arts
Trenton Mural Arts, 130 artists contributed to this art project without knowing what the final image would be.

Or maybe you have wondered if you could actually do something about this.  Perhaps you have considered getting involved with the planning of these kinds of activities.  In point of fact, it is critical to the success of Creative Placemaking planning that you do!  Why?  You are the local market expert.  You are very good at influencing significant action in your community.  You are a master at branding and telling people about all of the good things going on in your community.

Will this help your business?  If you can make the commitment to bring out the best in your community, it will most definitely!  Creative Placemaking is not a quick fix project.  It is a long-term process where you will work alongside cross-sector key stakeholders in your community and influence decision-making through your invaluable input.  You have vast data and information resources at your disposal.  You have numerous and varied professional relationships to call upon.  Most importantly, you have your finger on the pulse of your community.

Key stakeholders working together for Monmouth County (MOCO) Arts Corridor planning.
Key stakeholders working together for Monmouth County (MOCO) Arts Corridor planning.

Imagine, if you will, accessible streets, busy parks and open spaces, a bustling downtown, safe neighborhoods, bike & walk paths, rejuvenated buildings, new construction, quick turnover of housing.  Now, see yourself as a recognized leader in bringing about these improvements in your community.

Newark Riverfront Music at the Orange Sticks—new Summer series as part of the riverfront revival.
Newark Riverfront Music at the Orange Sticks—new Summer series as part of the riverfront revival.

You can become the local ‘superstar’ in Creative Placemaking!

If this is something that interests you, the Center for Creative Placemaking at Bloomfield College offers a professional training workshop designed for real estate professionals to help them become local leaders for Creative Placemaking Planning. This program is targeted to professionals who are interested in or are already peripherally engaged in Creative Placemaking work.   This course was developed by CCP team members who are licensed New Jersey REALTORS® and have amassed broad based knowledge with both commercial and residential real estate.

Note:  If you would like to become engaged in a Placemaking project in your community, work with your local REALTOR® association to have them apply for NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant.


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.