Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Written by
Connie Legris, RCE, Kankakee-Iroquois-Ford Association of REALTORS

The Kankakee-Iroquois-Ford Association of REALTORS® (KIFAR) used an NAR Placemaking Grant to build and design benches for our local Farmer's Market in downtown Kankakee. The Farmer's Market is a wonderful gathering place during the spring, summer and fall, but there was never much seating and folks were not able to sit, relax, chat and interact with their friends and neighbors.  And some residents were not even able to come since seating was not available.

The Kankakee Farmer's Market-the place to be on Saturday mornings spring, summer and fall.
The Kankakee Farmer's Market-the place to be on Saturday mornings spring, summer and fall.

Local talent, students and artists, were enlisted to build and paint the benches.  KIFAR collaborated with various nonprofit groups in the county to decide on a project, a theme and method for choosing the art which would be displayed on the benches.  Partners on the project included the City of Kankakee, Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce, Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Community Arts Council of Kankakee County.

A Birds Eye View - a bench featuring a view of Kankakee from above.
A Birds Eye View - a bench featuring a view of Kankakee from above.

With the grant money from NAR, local high school students built 10 benches and local area artists painted the benches with a historical theme.   The artists submitted their ideas to a committee who then selected the artists for the project.

Three of the benches at the “Art of Sitting” unveiling.
Three of the benches at the “Art of Sitting” unveiling.

 The benches were unveiled at our annual Strawberry Festival on June 1, 2014.  It was an exciting event, as each artist stood behind their bench and unveiled their art.

KIFAR heard positive comments from the public and one resident said how much more pleasant it was to attend the market because of the benches.    Another woman said she was now able to bring her mother to the market who wasn’t able to attend before because she did not have a lot of stamina to stand.  The benches now provide a place for her to sit, have a drink and enjoy the sights and sounds of the market.

Kankakee Farmer's Market
People enjoying the ambience of the Farmer's Market by resting and chatting with friends. Note the plaques on the back of the benches which indicate KIFAR sponsored the benches.

The benches are not only used for seating at the Farmer's Market every Saturday but they are also borrowed for use as seating at other community events including area festivals and the Bears Training Camp,  which is held in Bourbonnais in July.

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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
opportunities.

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.

Diversity
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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