Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

YPN Members Rock the Block in Rockford

Written by Jackie Cozzi, Director of Communication and Professional Development, Rockford Area REALTORS®

The Rockford Area REALTORS® Young Professional Network (YPN) has made a commitment for the past two years to take on a community beautification project that would benefit the citizens of Rockford.

Last year, the YPN made streetscaping improvements, including planning of trees, landscaping and new bike racks, to a ¼ mile stretch of Broadway in downtown Rockford, IL.


This year they took it a step further by selecting a project that would not only provide an enhanced asset to the community, but would also welcome visiting guests.

The UW Health Sports Factory, which opened in Rockford in 2016 to host various sport tournaments, will be the gateway to downtown Rockford for over 500,000 tournament attendees and their families.

Any adult who has spent hours at their child’s soccer, volleyball, and/or basketball tournaments truly understands how long the day can be and how challenging keeping your child’s sibling(s), that may be in tow, occupied throughout the time spent at the games.

Seeing an opportunity, the YPN selected a park that is located adjacent to the Sports Factory that, with some enhancements, could serve as a recreational spot for those families who are spending their day or weekend at the Sports Factory.  Selecting a site that already had a great foundation and convenient location made it easy to identify this area as the 2016 Rock the Block Project.


Interesting enough, the park is located in a historic district. Establishing relationships with the residents of the district and the Historic Preservation Commission, developing trust with the land owners, which was the Rockford Park District, and searching for project sponsors and donors was key to making this initiative a success.

centennial park 3

Starting things off were several very successful fundraising events that were held during the past twelve months that helped generate income for this Rockford Area REALTORS® YPN sponsored endeavor.  The National Association of REALTORS® played a significant role in the success of this park enhancement by financially supporting the YPN’s efforts with via a Placemaking Grant.  At the end of the day, $20,000 that was raised, and additional in-kind services, satisfied the financial basis to allow the project to come to fruition.


After several days of onsite prep-work, the week ended on member Engagement Day where over 25 volunteers planted seedlings and spread mulch and put the finishing touches around a newly paved area in the park.


Twelve months later, the project is almost complete. Beautiful arch signage will be placed at the entrance to the park, along with some benches, in the spring of 2017.

These member engagement projects are important for both the REALTOR® brand and the community.   We can’t wait to start planning for our 2017 Rock the Block project.




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.