Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

The Before and After – Part 16

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 $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:

Eastern Connecticut Association of REALTORS® (CT)

A historic mill property in Thompson, CT was recently re-redeveloped into a modern residential complex with mixed-use amenities. The house and grounds had significant community history.  Purchased in 1914 by Harriet Tourtellotte, a member of one of Thompson’s most historically significant families, it was deeded to the town with the intent that it serve as a residence for the superintendent of the public schools.  While it did serve as a residence for a number of years up until the early 1970’s, it was vacant since 2012.  Our Association helped to create the Thompson Garden by the River located on the property.  The garden has helped to beautify a neighborhood that has seen decline since its industrial heyday and serves as a pleasant neighborhood center for residents to walk, sit, and tend the rows.

Before and after images: Thompson Garden by the River, Thompson, CT

Photos courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors®

Space Coast Association of REALTORS® (FL)

The Space Coast Association of REALTORS® transformed an unused plot of land into a robust space peppered with prancing dogs, smiling children, and happy pet owners for the past two years.  In 2020, we teamed up with the City of Melbourne and several other businesses to build the Eau Gallie Dog Park.  Roofing contractors, plumbers, electricians and community volunteers, including our REALTOR® members, came together to create a new park for man’s best friend.  The dog park features Central Florida's first public "doggie" splash pad and also includes spraying fire hydrants, agility jumps, mounds and Fido's Fort, an interactive tunnel system.

See Community Comes Together to Build a Place for Pooches – and People.

Before and after images: Eau Gallie Dog Park, Melbourne, FL

Photos courtesy of Space Coast Association of REALTORS®

Lakes Country Association of REALTORS® (MN)

The addition of a piece of art can turn the most desolate scenery to one of amazing beauty.  An underutilized site along our lakeside frontage with a beautiful view had the potential to be transformed into the perfect stopping point for community interaction.  The Lakes Country Association of Realtors wanted to entice people and visitors of all ages to come together and enjoy the view and share the beauty of the water.  The new gathering spot’s focus is a sculpture where its bright colors proved to be what was needed to bring this space to life.  A bike rack and benches were also added next to the 20’ kinetic glass sculpture, known as the “Glassinator, and now the spot has become quite the gathering place, as well as an added bonus for visitors to take pictures on their way in and out of town.  

Before and after images: Glassinator Sculpture, Lakes County, MN

Photos courtesy of Lakes Country Association of Realtors®

Ashland Board of REALTORS® (OH)

A pedestrian bridge in downtown Ashland is now completed.  The bridge is the first phase of the city’s effort to create to create the Center Run Trail.  The pedestrian bridge has a powder-coated black steel railing with the county and city logos cut into the east side.  "This is symbolic of the cooperation that is now taking place within these two government entries, uniting the citizens of Ashland", said Commissioner James Emmett Justice, who asked Ashland Board of REALTORS to be part of this project after a visit and conversation with ABOR's EO, Misty Miller.  "I have known Emmett for a long time, but when I took this role on, I met with him and other elected officials to let them know about what the REALTOR organization had to offer in the form of On Common Ground, Land Initiative Resources, Placemaking Grants, REALTOR Champions and more from the REALTOR Party", recalls, Miller.  "One day I got a phone call from Commissioner Justice and now we have a beautiful “placemaker” in the heart of downtown that will soon be complete with lighting, seating, and bike path.

Before and after images: pedestrian bridge in Downtown Ashland, OH

Photos courtesy of Ashland Board of REALTORS®

Central Susquehanna Valley Board of REALTORS® (PA)

Once fraught with blight, the borough of Washingtonville received a much-needed facelift in its community park. With the assistance of a NAR placemaking grant, Washingtonville Community Park residents can now enjoy an expanded playground area, rock garden, boat launch and newly planted trees. Local Realtors® stated that the board believed “this was such a worthy project.” Further, they stated, “it’s so important to invest in our communities to help revitalize and enhance neighborhoods.” The park has helped to beautify a neighborhood that had seen decline over the last several decades. With the help of forward-thinking local officials, Realtors® are working hard to turn that trend around.

Before and after images: Washingtonville Community Park, Central Susquehanna Valley,PA

Photos courtesy of Central Susquehanna Valley Board 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.