Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Using Placemaking to Jump Start Downtown Revitalization

Written by Chris Bailey, Government Affairs Director, Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS®

Like a lot of other small Southern towns, Greenville, South Carolina has experienced a rebirth and renaissance of sorts.  Downtown Greenville is seeing an unprecedented level of redevelopment with residential, commercial, parks and green space all flourishing.  But also like a lot of growing cities, portions of the community are either overlooked or slow to see underutilized spaces transformed.

Timing for a project could not have been better. The Greater Greenville REALTOR® Association (GGAR) was making community engagement and placemaking a priority while at the same time the City of Greenville was looking for help to give new life to one of the City’s underutilized spaces.  The project, named “The Plaza in the Village of West Greenville”, had the potential to fast track the revitalization of one of the most historic parts of Greenville’s downtown.  The City, along with the local business owners’ association, targeted a blocked dead-end street between rows of historic buildings.


The plan was to transform this space into a place where residents could gather; business could use for outdoor events; and the neighborhood could have a focal point and centerpiece to build around.   According to Tracy Ramseur, senior economic development project manager,” the Village’s need for such a space is driven in large part by the community-minded entrepreneurs opening new businesses in the area. The Village of West Greenville is fortunate to have an eclectic mix of small businesses, ranging from artist studios to restaurants, as well as a very active business association,” said Ramseur. “They host a variety of free community events, like V-Live concerts and monthly First Fridays, that bring hundreds of people to the Village’s epicenter.  The new plaza will serve as the ideal backdrop for those special events.”

This project involved a lot of moving parts with citizens, business owners and non-profits all providing input to the project.  In the end, the finished project exceeded all expectations.


On February 22 the City held a ribbon cutting and press conference.  Not only did multiple media outlets report on the project, but there was a large community presence who turned out.  And the gratitude from City Council, citizens and business owners for NAR’s Placemaking Grant was clearly evident.


“The Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® was delighted to partner with the City of Greenville by providing a $3,000 Placemaking grant from the National Association of REALTORS®. REALTOR® associations and members are actively engaged in our local communities. Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities by creating places where people can interact and engage. We are excited that, through our contribution and involvement in this project, we were able to help transform an underutilized space into a vibrant public plaza where friends and neighbors can come together.” – Lisa Deluca Alexander, 2018 GGAR President.


NAR’s Placemaking Grants are a valuable tool available to local REALTOR® Associations to strategically use them to engage in a community and work with community partners.  This grant, as well as the other community outreach resources, allow REALTOR® members to see their dues returned back to their communities in the form of grant dollars which help improve the quality of life for residents.  This is the second time in two years that the GGAR has partnered with a local government to transform an underutilized space into a destination for the community.  The projects and results have continued to exceed our expectations and pay dividends.


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.