Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Written by Patti Lawton, REALTOR®
Real Estate Broker, Legacy Properties Sotheby's International Realty

The residents of Richmond, Maine, with a population of just over 3,000, came together last summer and fall to build a new Community Library.  Set on the site of the Richmond’s very old library, which was demolished, the town reached out to its citizens with a proposal to use volunteer labor and donated materials to build the library.

Richmond, Maine newly built community library.
Richmond, Maine newly built community library.

Knowing the importance of community buildings and with a strong sense of how people view their town and surroundings, a group of very dedicated people drew up building plans and gathered bids.  Volunteers were recruited and the building of the library began.

By late summer, the building was completed and stocked with books.   However, the grounds still bore the scars of construction and funds were depleted.  The community came together again, this time with the help of its local REALTORS®.

The Merrymeeting Board of REALTORS® received a Placemaking grant from the National Association of REALTORS®, which was used to help create an outdoor reading room and community garden.  Along with donations from an area landscaping architect and landscaping company, the project is on its way to be a place for residents, and visitors, to gather, sit, read, relax and enjoy a quiet moment.

Outdoor reading room & community garden.
Outdoor reading room & community garden.

Victoria Boundy, Director of Community & Business Development for the Town of Richmond (ME) thinks the new library and community garden space creates a sense of place in the town.   “In a small town like Richmond, without an arts center or even a community center, the library is such an integral part of the community.  Now in the center of the village, the space brings a wide range of people together for learning, arts and cultural programming, and those informal daily interactions with others that add so much to the quality of community life. The new reading garden will provide an “outdoor room” for all of those activities.”

Children enjoying the outdoor reading room area.
Children enjoying the outdoor reading room area.

As REALTORS®, we know that the heart of a town is its community and the stronger the community, the stronger the real estate market is.  Without the help of NAR’s Placemaking grant, the rest of the support may not have come together and without that, the library would just have been a building to run in and out of.  Now we have a gathering spot that all may enjoy.



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.