Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

The Before & After, Part 6

The National Association of REALTORS® encourages our state and local REALTOR® Associations to partner with others to make their communities better places to live.   Our Placemaking Grant is available to our REALTOR® Associations to help fund local Placemaking projects.  Since the launch of the grant in 2014, we have approved almost $700,000 in funding for over 300 community placemaking projects.   If you have an unused, underused, unwelcoming space in your community, maybe it’s time to transform it into a more welcoming place for the community to gather.

As part of the grant requirements, we ask for a before photo of the current space and a photo of the same space after the project has been completed to show how a space was transformed into a vibrant place for a community to gather.

Here are some of those completed projects.   Also see the blog posts on other projects:


Creation of a parklet to include seating, bike rack and landscaping.


Many of our members were excited to assist with a parklet in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle because this neighborhood is experiencing greater density and a community gathering area was desperately needed. Fortunately, NAR offers placemaking grants for such projects and we were able to secure a grant that helped cover construction material costs. Media exposure of the Ballard parklet was featured in the Seattle pi and the Ballard News Tribune. The community is very pleased with the parklet because it offers an area for community engagement for families.

Northern Kentucky Association of REALTORS® (KY)

Installation of a bench and Little Free Library next to City hall to create a space to rest, relax and read.


NKAR established a relationship with the City of Southgate through NAR’s On Common Ground publication. The City contacted us and we met with them several times to discuss their growth and other issues.  This project was a result of those discussions.  At the ribbon cutting, members of the community immediately sat on the bench and were thrilled about the Little Free Library.  We had media exposure on the Campbell County website, in the River City News and the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® (OH)

Creation of a pedestrian plaza on a vacant lot to include seating, a stage and games.


An empty site in the East Akron neighborhood is now home to a small stage for concerts and speakers; plenty of seating for passersby; local artwork, games; and new landscaping.  REALTORS®, several area non-profits and local residents, with the support of the City of Akron, helped to build the plaza by assisting with the installation of large in-ground chess/checkerboard, landscaping, and general lot prep. At the center of busy intersection, and neighbor to a popular farmer’s market, the site transformation was a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.  A nearby non-profit that was instrumental in the project plans to host a concert series featuring local musicians throughout the summer months.

Montgomery County Association of REALTORS® (PA)

Creation of a pedestrian plaza/trail to connect to Rambo Park.


Pat Webster, a REALTOR®, MCAR Board member and Trappe Borough Council member, first brought the project to MCAR’s attention. “This grant has helped put the finishing touch on the path connecting Main Street with Trappe’s Rambo Park, creating a place where friends and neighbors can relax as they enter or exit the park,” said Webster.  The news was picked up by the Pottstown Mercury newspaper, and the pergola is being enjoyed by park-goers.

Lamoille Area Board of REALTORS® (VT)

Creation of a new trail as part of a mountain trails system.


The Lamoille Area Board of REALTORS® partnered with the Stowe Mountain Bike Association to help complete trail work in a network of trails in Stowe because mountain biking continues to mirror the ski and snowboard industry as a family/recreation vacation alternative. Creating an outdoor environment activity allows locals and visitors alike to engage in nature, sports, the beauty of our area here in the mountains and reap many health benefits while building a strong community identity as well. The utilization of volunteers, including many of our members, to do much of the labor was not simply a cost-savings measure, it also helped build community and a means to instill ownership and pride in those who partook in the trail building process.  It was a win-win all the way through.


Creation of a pocket park that was in need of some TLC.


We started this project by contacting our town officials to see about forming a partnership for a community project that would make our town more inviting.  The compliments and recognition from town residents, town employees and our members has made it all worthwhile. They all feel the pride of what a community can do as a team effort.


Revitalized an unwelcoming space into a safe and welcoming park and playground.


REALTOR® and Frackville Borough resident Helen Miernicki wanted to fight blight in her community. Blight had taken its toll on several properties in the immediate area, which resulted in the former borough playground to fall into disrepair. REALTORS® and the borough received considerable positive coverage for the park’s turn-around. Helen’s commitment to the borough resulted in her being unanimously appointed to fill a vacancy on borough council in late 2016. In Pennsylvania’s 2017 primary, she was the top vote-getter because of her work in cleaning up the park. The Placemaking Grant changed the community for the better, while strengthen the REALTOR® brand locally.

Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® (PA)

Creation of a parklet and pump track on a vacant lot.


 The Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® (R-BAR) worked with a local community development corporation to help create a pocket park and pump track on a vacant lot in downtown Reading, Pa. R-BAR was made aware of the idea for a parklet/pump track and the Community Growth Initiative (a committee at the Association) worked on a plan to assist with the project. Ultimately, R-BAR was recognized in the community for supporting the project and many kids and families enjoyed the park.

Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® (WI)

Creation of a pocket park on the current site of the Postman's Plot.


GMAR along with NEWaukee and others took on a project for the National Main Streets Conference by launching an experiment to build a pocket park – with conference attendees helping to build the park.  All of the furniture is moveable and low in cost but high in quality.  Neighborhood feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the next year, NEWaukee and the park designer/builder will study behavior in the park to track what features are being used. They will work with the surrounding businesses and neighbors to continually solicit input, build programming ideas and make room for future improvements.


Creation of a community garden built by REALTORS®.


 Mobilizing 77 REALTORS®, CFR constructed two community gardens in two consecutive days. Day one involved installation of 12 raised garden beds, viewing area, bike racks, 4 raised spice garden beds, water source, tool shed, and basketball bang-boards, for community use. Day two involved installation of 12 raised garden beds, including installation of seating in the nearby lakeside setting, water source, tool shed, farmers garden area, lunch break area with picnic tables, and signs explaining the benefit of eating healthy vegetables. Wilmington Green, a local nonprofit, assisted with oversight of installation, and takes on maintenance of the installations.


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.