Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

The Before and After – Part 17

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 $1.2 million in funding in over 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.  To see more examples, type in ”The Before and After” in the Blog Search box.

REALTOR® Association of Northwestern Illinois, IL, Freeport Downtown Parklet

REALTORS® partnered with Downtown Freeport Events (a group of business community leaders) and two local artists to create a new place to sit and enjoy local art as well as to beautify the streetscape. The project was essential to the business community because murals and parklets help bring customers to downtowns and boost economic activity while enhancing cultural enrichment of the arts.  We transformed the vacant space by incorporating a mural, a bench, and potted flowers to make it a new welcoming spot for the community to gather. Many people stop by the mural to enjoy a cup of coffee, take a picture, or relax while shopping. Downtown Freeport Events wanted to create a pop-up parklet to test the space for a long-term urban parklet and gather community feedback for similar locations throughout the downtown area. The pop-up parklet was so successful, it will stay in its place on Chicago and Main St. in Freeport, IL. The pop-up parklet's success has led the City of Freeport's Economic Development Department to discuss the demolition of two vacant and abandoned buildings to create a larger parklet and public gathering space.

Before and after images: Freeport Downtown Parklet, IL

Photos courtesy REALTOR® Association of Northwestern Illinois

Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS®,  SC, “Hanahan Hub”

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors® (CTAR) transformed a vacant lot in the City of Hanahan into the “Hanahan Hub”—a vibrant, public space for the community to enjoy. CTAR worked with the City of Hanahan to transform the lot at the corner of Yeamans Hall Road and Griffin Street, across from Hanahan City Hall. The location was part of the city’s 2019 Streetscape Project and is near the upcoming Lowcountry Rapid Transit Line. The pocket park provides residents and visitors an easily accessible place to gather, especially during the pandemic,  and is the site of the Yeamans Hall Canteen, where food trucks stage in town.   Friday nights have been transformed from a sleepy, vacant area, into a carnival of lights, music and food.  The revitalization of the lot has been a welcome addition to the City of Hanahan and will provide a sense of place for entertainment for residents and visitors alike.

Before and after images: Hanahan Hub, Charleston, SC

Photos courtesy Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS®

Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®, TN, Pop-up Pedestrian Refuge

This space, located in East Nashville at the intersection of Porter Road & Greenwood Ave, was originally planned to be a bus stop boarding island; however, financial constraints within our local government and transit authority would later prevent those plans from coming to fruition. This presented an opportunity for a temporary installation to begin to demonstrate how a bus stop could incorporate community placemaking assets such as art, seating, and safety in future, permanent designs.  This installation was specifically designed to create a traffic calming element at the intersection. The planters near the travel lane narrow the road way so that vehicles slow down when passing by. This refuge also shortens the crossing distance for pedestrians moving back and forth to the small businesses in the area.  To contribute to placemaking, a ground mural was installed for this temporary installation. Also, moveable, public seating was added for those waiting for a bus to arrive as well as planters to narrow the vehicle lanes and protect this new pedestrian space.

Before and after images: Pop-up Pedestrian Refuge, Nashville, TN

Photos courtesy Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®

New Smyrna Beach Board of REALTORS®, FL, Turnbull Street Dog Park

A vacant piece of land in New Smyrna Beach was recently brought back to life with the help of the New Smyrna Beach Board of Realtors. An open field with so much potential was left in the dust until our Association realized what an asset it really could be.  Many of our members who passed the field on a regular basis realized how many residents would walk their dogs and let them run around in the area. The concern of safety started to arise in the city since that land was not gated and was close to a road and community. Our Association had the idea to partner with city to transform the site into a dog park where the residents could come and enjoy the area knowing that their dogs would be safe off leash and not have to worry about their dogs running into the road. Together the City of New Smyrna Beach and our Association worked to create the Turnbull Street Dog Park.   We had our opening event on National Love your Pet Day on February 20th where we also collected pet food and toys to donate to local shelters. This event and partnership were a huge success we were able to spread the awareness of Placemaking with our members and create a space which was vacant into a place that both people and pets can enjoy!

Before and after images: Turnbull Street Dog Park, Smyrna Beach, FL

Photos courtesy New Smyrna Beach Board of REALTORS®

Hometown Association of REALTORS®, IL, Welsh Park Toddler Garden

REALTORS® partnered with the DeKalb Regional Office of Education, DeKalb County Community Gardens, DeKalb Park District, Basic DeKalb County, and community volunteers to build a Toddler Garden at a vacant lot near Welsh Park in DeKalb, IL. The Toddler Garden offers an interactive garden designed to maximize brain development from birth to five years of age by using the 5 Basics -  a set of five evidence-based, nurturing practices that help all infants and toddlers thrive cognitively, socially, and emotionally. Children can find weekly education programming at the garden, even during winter months, including how to engage with the garden amenities such as exploring movement through play on the obstacle paver course, rain garden, musical wooden flowers, planter boxes, and much more.

Before and after images: Welsh Park Toddler Garden, DeKalb, IL

Photos courtesy Hometown Association of REALTORS®

Three Rivers Association of REALTORS®, IL, Butterfly Pollinator Garden

In July of 2020, we celebrated the creation and revitalization of the Butterfly Garden in Canal Port Park in Morris, IL. The park was made possible through the combined efforts of the Three Rivers Association of REALTORS, the Community Foundation of Grundy County, The Conservation Foundation, and all the donors and volunteers who worked on renovating the garden originally created by retired Morris City Engineer Warren Olson. This revitalized space provides a place for citizens of Morris to educate themselves on plant species native to the area in Morris’s downtown business district and to sit and relax to enjoy the garden.

Before and after images: Butterfly Pollinator Garder, Morris, IL

Photos courtesy Three Rivers Association 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.