Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Ring in the New Year by Planning a New Destination in your Neighborhood

It’s a new year and it’s time to think about what you can to make your community a better place to live and to reflect back on how REALTORS® did just that.

“REALTORS® don’t only sell homes; they sell neighborhoods and communities. REALTORS® aid in improving and revitalizing neighborhoods with smart growth initiatives, helping create walkable, urban centers, which is what more Americans want in their neighborhoods.” Chris Polychron, Past President, National Association of REALTORS®

The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) looks at placemaking as inspiring people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Does your neighborhood have a heart, a center, where everyone meets, enjoys and gathers?  If not, maybe it’s time to create one.

People dancing in Congress Square, Portland

Courtesy of Corey Templeton - published on

There are a variety of projects to become engaged in and some of our REALTOR® Associations have set great examples.

And NAR is here to help with funding. NAR’s Placemaking and Smart Growth grants are available to our state and local REALTOR® Associations to partner with others in their communities to build better communities whether that be to create new public spaces or to advocate for public policies that impact the built environment.

The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces and destinations. Think pocket parks, trails, gardens, plazas, dog parks, play areas, alley activations. It could also be used to implement some of the ideas from the community input from the projects funded by the Smart Growth Grant which funds the engagement in local land-use/transportation policy issues.

Using our Placemaking Grant and funding from the St. Louis REALTORS® Foundation, the St. Louis REALTORS® (MO) transformed a vacant piece of land within the St. Louis Greater Ville neighborhood into a community park. REALTORS® lent a helping hand to help assemble new benches, plant flowers and shrubs, construct wooden privacy fences and much more. The new park is now completed and includes urban gardens, flower boxes and handicap accessible walk ways and is a perfect welcoming destination for the whole community. St. Louis City Community Park: A celebration of a special neighborhood and the REALTOR® spirit.

Volunteers transforming a vacant piece of land in the St. Louis Greater Ville neighborhood into a community park.

Photos courtesy of the St. Louis REALTORS®

Or how about buying the land on which to build a project. That’s just what a REALTOR® did. When she bought her home, she also purchased an empty lot next door with the vision to transform it into a garden everyone could use. That space is now a place for the whole community to enjoy as they can come visit and relax in the garden. Read how this came about and how REALTORS® from MIBOR (IN) pitched in to help plant trees, spread mulch, tend to the grow beds, build a tool shed and help set up an urban chicken coop.  How a REALTOR® is Helping to Change a Neighborhood in Indianapolis.

REALTORS® from MIBOR (IN) planting trees and spreading mulch.

Photos courtesy of the MIBOR REALTOR® Association

And sometimes you may need to take a boat to help a community out. The Coastal Association of REALTORS® (MD) helped build an island’s only park on a vacant, abandoned lot currently owned by the local fire department. REALTORS® and association staff members traveled to Smith Island, which lies in the Chesapeake Bay, by boat to set up picnic tables, benches, a bicycle rack, trash receptacles, and landscaping that can stand up to sometimes rough island conditions. The project served to greatly extend the REALTORS® outreach and overall goals as the association of providing opportunities for members to give back to their communities.  REALTORS® Bring an Island its First Park.

Coastal Association of REALTORS® (MD) staff members and REALTORS® helping built a park on Smith Island, Chesapeake Bay.

Photos courtesy of the Coastal Association of REALTORS®.

There are more of these great stories, as well as other placemaking project ideas, on this blog. So check them out.

And don’t forget about the Smart Growth Action Grant which can be used to set the stage for what a community wants and how it show grow and develop.  This can include organizing a workshop to make a community more walkable; sponsoring a charrette to get community input for large-scale projects; coordinating a downtown assessment to identify and address a community’s assets and challenges; and planning a Better Block event to imagine what could be.

For example, the Maine Association of REALTORS® used a Smart Growth Action Grant to sponsor a three-day charrette, in which all stakeholders had an opportunity to contribute ideas for a new downtown development. During a “Listening Session”, residents expressed their support for the creation of public green spaces and greenways and one design option included plans for a bike trail and park.

Blueprint of a flexible mixed-use neighborhood concept

Courtesy of the Maine Association of REALTORS®

And in Miami, the Miami REALTORS® came across an abandoned building with a blank wall overlooking an overgrown green space that seemed ripe with potential. They decided to organize a Better Block to help visualize what that space could be turned into. The project was the new ‘MKTPlace at Goombay Plaza’ which showcased Bahamian food, reggae music, dancing, and a dramatic light show and now every Saturday, local vendors now have a place to sell their wares and perpetuate the beloved local Bahamian culture. The Goombay Plaza project, a great success, raised critical awareness that REALTORS® care, and are very involved in the growth of their communities.

The MKTPlace at Goombay Plaza in Miami.

Photo courtesy of the Miami REALTORS®

So I hope you are getting inspired to create a new gathering space in your community in 2019.


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.