Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Vacant Lot to an Educational Oasis

Written by Fran Cormier, Executive Officer, Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS®

The idea for our placemaking project all started when Stephanie Barnes, president of the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® (GFBOR), was on a field trip with her son. The outing, was presented by the Mill River Wetland Committee, which educates the community about the value of watersheds. Stephanie learned how plants can affect the health of our environment and what she learned motivated her to take action.

Stephanie met with the Mill River Wetland Committee to discuss creating a pocket park to educate visitors on sustainable gardening and native plants. She was also looking to find a site in town to build the park.


After an unused vacant lot, in the shape of a triangle, was identified as a place to build the park, Stephanie and the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS®, along with its partners, the Town of Fairfield (CT), the Mill River Wetlands Committee and Sleepy Hollow Landscaping, got to work. They came up with a design and built the park.

“This was not an easy project but well worth it.  The time, commitment and level of skill for which this team demonstrated is invaluable to our board and the community.  We are grateful for their dedication, passion and hard work” Barnes said.

The lot was transformed into a sustainable and educational pocket park and has become a welcoming spot for residents to sit and relax among a garden of flowers and clover.  The park features plants such as echinacea, swamp milkweed, coreopsis and golden rod, designed to attract birds, bees and butterflies to the park.   The park also includes boulders used as places to sit, a more natural option in lieu of benches.


All of the plantings at the park encourage slow absorption of rain water so the water does not end up in the town’s rivers.   A sign was installed to educate those who visit the park to encourage them to use the types of plants in the park rather than grass, which can cause flooding. “What we plant and what we do affects our rivers,” said Barnes.


Max Rothman, Sleepy Hollow Landscaping, said that “the majority of the plantings were chosen because they are native to the area, require very little maintenance and are drought tolerant. Additionally, we installed two separate water gardens and white clover along the borderline beds in lieu of turf grass to assist with water retention. Overall, the project was a great example of bringing together diverse groups to beautify a local vacant space that is ecologically friendly and inviting to the community.”

Barnes stated “We are very grateful to our GFBOR Committee, Michael Traum, Kristen DeLaurentiis and Jennifer DeLaurentis for their work on this project and to the Mill River Wetlands Committee, Sleepy Hollow Landscaping and the Town of Fairfield.  It was a team effort.”

This is the consecutive second year the GFBOR Placemaking Committee has created a new pocket park in Fairfield.  We appreciate the opportunities NAR’s Placemaking grant has offered our towns and we especially appreciate the help from NAR staff, who simplified the process for us.  Through the placemaking grant, we are able to improve our neighborhoods, one project at a time, and add value to all who live in the community.


First Selectman Michael Tetreau, a former REALTOR® and GFBOR Past President, wrote “The Town appreciates all of GFBOR’s good work and community service and looks forward to continuing our successful partnership!”

“REALTORS® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them. When we work with the Town of Fairfield, they work with us and we get things done,” Barnes said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony where neighbors, legislators, First Selectman Michael Tetreau, who cut the ribbon, and REALTORS® gathered to enjoy and celebrate their new pocket park.


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.