Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Rebuilding a Park to Make “Panhandle Strong”

Written by Tesa Burch, Communications Director, Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®

Hurricane Michael made landfall in Panama City, Florida on October 10, 2018. In about 4 hours, the category 5 storm turned a string of beautiful vacation destination cities into piles of rubble. Eleven Northwest Florida counties declared states of emergency. Hurricane Michael brought with it 14 feet of storm surge in coastal cities and sustained 161 miles an hour winds at its worst. This speed was determined much later as because the storm blew away every local device to record wind speed. 3,000 structures were destroyed and an estimated 50,000 were damaged in some way. An estimated 2.8 million acres of trees were damaged or catastrophically damaged. Brick buildings crumbled to the ground. Everyone who lived in the hurricane’s path had a storm story: some part of their life that was either crushed by a tree, flooded, or blown away.

A two-way road surrounded by hurricane debris

Photo courtesy of Connect Savannah

Public spaces also experienced severe damage. Rebuilding these places for our community has been a slow and difficult endeavor. At the end of 2020, Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS® (CPAR) saw an opportunity to apply for a Placemaking grant from the National Association of REALTORS® to help rebuild a park destroyed by the hurricane.  Our area had many public spaces that could be considered eyesores or uninhabitable following the storm.  We reached out to the City of Panama City to determine the area where they saw the greatest need and they identified Adams Park.  

A walking path in Adams Park in Panama City, FL, covered by mud and leaves with the bay in the background

Photo courtesy of Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®

In March, CPAR REALTORS® coordinated a volunteer workday to restore and improve Adams Park, located in a heavily impacted neighborhood. Adams Park is in an area called the Cove, historically known for its lush tree canopy. The tree canopy that defined the park was completely wiped out along with the sea wall and existing benches.

Volunteers working to restore and improve Adams Park in Panama City, FL

Photo courtesy of Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®

To help rebuild the park, we joined forces with the City of Panama City Quality of Life Department. We spread the word to the local community through social media and the local news channel WMBB News 13. Over 30 REALTORS® and volunteers came out to take part in the event and helped to install new pergola swing benches overlooking the bay and plant new landscaping in the park. Throughout the morning of the event, people who passed by were so excited and grateful to see the effort put in by our volunteers.

A REALTOR® volunteer pushing a wheelbarrow full of mulch during the Adams Park workday restoration, Panama City, FL

Photo courtesy of Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®

Rebuilding a new sense of normal, post-hurricane, has been incredibly helpful to our local community who endured so much following the natural disaster. “Panhandle Strong” and “850 Strong” have become rallying cries for efforts to rebuild in our area. This park can once again has become a destination in the community and provides a place for residents to enjoy the waterfront landscape. Our REALTORS® also got to lead the way in improving our little piece of paradise, one place at a time. Please visit for additional information.

Pergola swing benches overlooking the bay at Adams Park, Panama City, FL

Courtesy of Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®


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.