Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

The Before and After – Part 18

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.

North Central Board of REALTORS®, OK – Central Fare

The North Central Board of Realtors (NCBOR) located in Ponca City, OK was excited to work aside the Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA) on a project that was launched, in part, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Central Fare, a community workforce retention and attraction project, was launched in June 2020 by the Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA) in response to COVID-19 physical distancing measures. It is now a new green space with picnic tables, sunshades, string lights, and electrical outlets located directly west of City Central in downtown Ponca City. With NAR’s Placemaking Grant, PCDA was able to add more picnic tables, shade areas, visual interest and greenery to the ADA accessible outdoor food court and seating area. Members from NCBOR put in time and energy by putting together picnic tables. City Central is a newly renovated office building, home to several meeting spaces, the Link co-working space, the Summit Conference Center and leasable commercial offices. Central Fare is now a wonderful area for local food trucks to offer services to City Central employees who want to enjoy their lunch outside.

Before and after images: Central Fare, Ponca City, OK

Photos courtesy of North Central Board of REALTORS®, OK

Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®, TN – Pocket Park Installation

Through the support of Greater Nashville Realtors, Urban Housing Solutions (UHS) transformed a formerly empty green space at UHS’s office property (located at the 9th St. and Woodland St. intersection in the heart of a prominent, pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district of East Nashville) to create a pocket park that also educates and informs visitors on the issue of affordable housing.  UHS installed a wooden public art/shade structure that was created and donated to UHS by local architecture firm Hastings Architecture, along with outdoor seating, solar lighting, and light landscaping. The project has added a multifunctional installation to an already rich public art scene in East Nashville that also speaks to the pressing need for affordable housing in Nashville. Since completing the installation in September 2020, the pocket park has received visitors who sit and eat lunch, read the educational signage that describes the structure and the work of UHS, and take pictures of the installation.

Before and after images: UHS Pocket Park, Nashville, TN

Photos courtesy of Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®, TN

Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®, FL – “Panhandle Strong”

After a devastating hurricane, Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS® (CPAR) saw an opportunity to help rebuild a park that was destroyed by the hurricane. The area had many public spaces that could be considered eyesores or uninhabitable following the storm. CPAR reached out to the City of Panama City to determine the area where they saw the greatest need and they identified Adams Park which is in an area called the Cove, historically known for its lush tree canopy. The tree canopy that defined the park was completely wiped out along with the sea wall and existing benches. CPAR REALTORS® coordinated a volunteer workday to restore Adams Park, located in a heavily impacted neighborhood. Over 30 REALTORS® and volunteers came out to take part in the event and helped to install new pergola swing benches overlooking the bay and plant new landscaping in the park. Throughout the morning of the event, people who passed by were so excited and grateful to see the effort put in by our volunteers. This park can once again has become a destination in the community and provides a place for residents to enjoy the waterfront landscape. Our REALTORS® also got to lead the way in improving our little piece of paradise, one place at a time. For more detailed information, please visit Rebuilding a Park to Make “Panhandle Strong.”

Before and after images: Adams Park, Panama City, FL

Photos courtesy of Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®, FL

Greater Tampa Association of REALTORS®, FL – Apollo Beach Garden

More than 15 REALTOR® volunteers gathered at Apollo Beach, a suburb of Tampa, Florida to provide hands-on service for a community garden in a public park. The Greater Tampa REALTORS® (GTR) provided sweat equity by hauling and scattering mulch, converting galvanized metal tubs into planters, planting blueberries, relocating potted plants, and assembling as well as sanding picnic tables to help the Hillsborough County Apollo Beach Garden Club (ABGC) expand its community gardening opportunity. NAR’s Placemaking Grant also helped further develop ABGC’s irrigation capability and upgraded their message board. The mission of the garden club is to “enrich outdoor garden experiences and education through programs, public awareness and expert recommendations.” In addition to providing 4ft x 8ft raised beds for a minimal lease, the garden is designed to accommodate six ADA table-level raised beds. Building a community of camaraderie, the vision of the club is to educate adults and youth “about various plants, local environmental issues, and become more observant of nature.”

Before and after images: Apollo Beach Garden, Tampa, FL

Photos courtesy of Greater Tampa Association of REALTORS®, FL

Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS®, MI

A fire destroyed two businesses in downtown Fowler, MI. However, the village spirit wasn’t going to be taken down. People banded together and crowdfunded to lay sod down on the now vacant lot. But, more needed to be done and the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® stepped in to “adopt” the lot. The Association partnered with the owners of Becker’s Bridal who own the lot to create place for all to enjoy. REALTOR® volunteers from the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® spent several months brainstorming and building a plan to transform this empty spot into a gathering place downtown for residents and visitors. Picnic/game tables with umbrellas, locally made by Wards Woodshop in Mason, were placed in the lot. A Free Little Library is prominent on the corner of the lot for a “take a book, leave a book” system. Adirondack chairs surround a storage table made of repurposed tires. The table will hold the pieces for the game boards and bags for a cornhole set also on the lot. “Building community is at the heart of REALTORS®, and we picked up our hammers and paintbrushes and saw it come together,” said Amy Jackson, REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Hubbell BriarWood and chair of the community enhancement committee. “We really hope it becomes a place for the community and visitors to enjoy.”

Before and after images: vacant lot in Downtown Fowler, MI

Photos courtesy of Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS®, MI


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.