Greetings Government Affairs Directors, Association Executives, and Association Staff! I wanted to introduce myself to you all. My name is Catherine Mesick, and I am the new Grants and Projects at the National Association of REALTORS®. I have taken over management of the Placemaking Grants from the incomparable Holly Moskerintz, who retired earlier in the year, and built the Placemaking Grant program from the ground up. I was fortunate enough to work with Holly and learn from her before she left, and she will be greatly missed.
I have been with NAR since 2016, and my previous role was Coordinator, Advocacy Operations. I’m very excited to be working on the Placemaking Grants, and I’m also managing the Fair Housing Grants. So please reach out to me any time you have questions about either of those grants. I’m always glad to help.
I’d like to share with you now an overview of the Placemaking Grants, and the many different kinds of projects that can be funded. We’re still accepting 2022 applications through October 15.
What is placemaking?
The definition of “placemaking” can change a bit, depending on whom you’re talking to. Most definitions agree that it’s a way of shaping public space that incorporates the ideas, needs, and assets of the people in the community who will use that space. For NAR’s purposes, placemaking means taking an unused or underutilized site, and turning it into a new, welcoming gathering place for the community. The space needs to be outdoors, open to the public, and free to access. Placemaking Grants are awarded at two levels:
- Level 1: up to $1,500 for temporary placemaking projects.
- Level 2: up to $5,000 for permanent placemaking projects.
In addition, Placemaking Grants are awarded on a reimbursement basis. So your association will pay the cost of the project up front and then submit receipts to NAR for reimbursement.
Here are some underused and unused sites that REALTOR® Associations have worked with and what those spaces transformed into:
Pop-up Park at the Jefferson Street Pedestrian Underpass, Rockford, IL
Dog Park, Brevard County, FL
Alley Activation Between Main Street and Boulder Drive, Fitchburg, MA
Each one of these sites is now a vibrant new gathering place.
What kinds of gathering places are possible with an NAR Placemaking Grant?
As I mentioned above, ideal Placemaking Grant projects should be at a site that’s outdoors and accessible to all. Projects don’t need to be overly elaborate or expensive. In fact, it’s better if they are a little more modest—the grants have a budget cap of $200,000, which means that the total cost of the project that receives the grant can’t exceed that $200,000 limit. In addition, not every project has to be permanent—temporary projects are welcome also. Temporary projects are most often used to try out a demonstration project on a particular site to gauge public reaction. If the reaction is positive, temporary projects can transform into permanent ones.
In the spirit of making your new placemaking site accessible to all, it’s best to incorporate at least three elements in your project. For example, adding a bench and some artwork or landscaping to a community garden can help make the site welcoming for those who aren’t interested in gardening. The same elements can help broaden the appeal of a dog park for those who don’t own dogs. And those additional elements don’t have to be expensive. Instead of hiring professional artists, art can be created by area residents as part of a fun community day. Landscaping can also be done by community volunteers rather than by pros.
In addition, a placemaking project can help the community for years to come. Partnering with local officials and nonprofits through a Placemaking Grant can help build relationships that will be valuable to your association in the future—and get you a seat at the table when important local issues arise. Placemaking projects can also help create investment down the road.
Here are some placemaking projects you might like to consider:
- Dog parks
- Pocket parks
- Pop-up parks (scroll down to Rockford Area REALTORS®—now known as NorthWest Illinois REALTORS®)
- Community gardens
- Alley activations
- Trails (scroll down to Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® heading)
- Storybook trails
- Playgrounds (scroll down to Central Susquehanna Valley Board of REALTORS®)
- Pedestrian Plazas
If you are interested in applying for a Placemaking Grant, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at PlacemakingGrants@nar.realtor, or at 202-383-7512. I’m happy to discuss any ideas you have, brainstorm with you, and answer any questions. I am here to help!
Read more about the Placemaking Grants and apply at https://realtorparty.realtor/community-outreach/placemaking/.
And keep watching this blog. We’ll have some exciting announcements about the Placemaking Grants in 2023.