Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

The Before & After, Part 9

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 the creation of new public spaces and destinations in a community.  Since the launch of the grant in 2014, we have approved over almost $1 million in funding in nearly 400 communities.   If you have an unused, underused, unwelcoming site – an “eyesore” - in your community, maybe it’s time to transform it into a welcoming place for the community to gather.

As part of the grant requirements, we ask for a before photo of the site and an after photo of the completed project to show how the site was transformed.  Here are some of those completed projects.   Also see the blog posts on other projects:

 Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® (CT)

The idea for this project all started when Stephanie Barnes, president of the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® (GFBOR), was on a field trip with her son. Stephanie learned how plants can affect the health of our environment and what she learned motivated her to take action. Stephanie met with the Mill River Wetland Committee to discuss creating a pocket park to educate visitors on sustainable gardening and native plants.  Stephanie and the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS®, along with its partners, the Town of Fairfield (CT), the Mill River Wetlands Committee and Sleepy Hollow Landscaping, got to work. They came up with a design and built the park. The lot was transformed into a sustainable and educational pocket park and has become a welcoming spot for residents to sit and relax among a garden of flowers and clover.

See:  Vacant Lot to an Educational Oasis

Suburban West Association of REALTORS® (PA)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance and Suburban West Realtors® Association helped to create a pocket park in Lansdowne Borough, PA.   The new community gathering space is called Lansdowne Landing.  Fifteen parking spots were painted over with a colorful ground mural by a local artist, filled with tables, chairs and toys, and lined with plants. Since opening, the space has been used for farmers markets, live music performances, meditation classes, and other activities and events. To complement the funding, a group of Realtor® volunteers spent a day at the project site, where they sanded and sealed wooden furniture, and helped decorate and erect a series of tall metal poles that will support the string lights to illuminate the colorful space during evening hours

Coastal Association of REALTORS® (MD)

The association was contacted by the local Maryland Department of Planning Office regarding a project opportunity on Smith Island, which is an island on the Chesapeake Bay that is only accessible by boat. The state was looking for funding to build what would be the island’s only park on a vacant, abandoned lot currently owned by the local fire department. A group of REALTORS® and association staff members traveled to the island to help build the project. Everyone was pleased with the final product –  the island’s first park.

See: REALTORS® Bring an Island its First Park

Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® (IL)

The Village of Diamond had a pedestrian problem. Due to a lack of paths or sidewalks, for many residents of the semi-rural town of almost 2,500 the only way to get to the post office, schools, Village Hall or retail was to drive. The Mayor had worked diligently for years to cobble together the funding and property agreements to construct a pedestrian path which would connect the entire Village and create safe routes to school, business and recreation. To make the path inviting, however, the Village asked for help from the Three Rivers Association of REALTORS(R) to construct a pocket park at the path's entrance. Local REALTORS(R) quickly accepted the request and used a placemaking grant to pay for hardscaping, landscaping and benches. About a dozen local REALTORS(R), AE David McClintock and GAD Gideon Blustein all pitched in to help build the pocket park and install the landscaping materials. The path is heavily utilized today and the pocket park provides a peaceful sanctuary for residents and visitors as they explore Diamond, IL.

West Hawaii Association of REALTORS® 

The West Hawaii Association of REALTORS® (WHAR) was made aware of the Hawaii Island Humane Society’s new location and learned the master plan would have a dog park as a main feature of the shelter. There is no other dog park on the island and is a long overdue amenity to the community and we decided to help out.  The dog park would feature benches, water features, places to sit on the grassy area, landscaping, restrooms and more. We worked with the Humane Society to determine their needs and found, through their Wishlist, that the amount we had been funded would work nicely for the benches in the dog park.  In addition, association members contributed volunteer hours for the landscaping component of the park.  The grand opening took place on April 17, 2017 and a group of REALTORS® and association staff were there to see the unveiling of the beautiful engraved benches that are now a central feature of the park.  Each time we visit the park or drive by, people are enjoying the comfort of the benches while their dogs socialize.


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.