Western Pennsylvania Associations Collaborate on Cohesive Regional Strategies

“Everything hinges on relationships. People want to work with people they trust in helping them meet their goals, visions and aspirations,” explains Justin Capouellez, the government affairs director for four REALTOR® associations serving counties surrounding Pittsburgh — Beaver County Association of REALTORS®, Greater Allegheny Kiski-Area Board of REALTORS®, Lawrence County Board of REALTORS®, and REALTORS® Association of Westmoreland, Indiana and Mon Valley.

As independent entities, each association focuses on building relationships and addressing needs in their home communities. But they also have an eye to more regional issues and utilizing NAR® tools helps facilitate stakeholder involvement and community connections and maximizes impact.

“The strategy behind our plans is considering what will have the biggest impact in the communities we serve,” Capouellez notes. In 2024, REALTOR® Party Grants for these Western Pennsylvania associations will total approximately $270,000 and will help fund a host of impactful community projects. Capouellez explains that participation in NAR’s Transforming Neighborhoods program in 2023 really got the ball rolling.


Greensburg, Pa., was one of only four communities nationally to be selected for the NAR Transforming Neighborhoods program. It enabled the community to bring in the prestigious Consulting Corps from The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) and explore downtown revitalization options. These experts spent nearly a week last July in Greensburg touring various downtown sites and conducting more than 70 interviews with a host of stakeholders and local officials. This community input helped CRE craft recommendations specific to Greensburg’s current and future needs.

Some recommendations have already been implemented such as repealing a downtown parking ordinance and installing a welcome sign. Others will take a little longer, such as a site-specific strategy for a vacant lot or a keystone project that would repurpose the First Commonwealth Bank building and redevelop the surrounding block to potentially create Airbnbs, a hotel, event space, coworking space and entertainment and dining options.

“We learned how to problem solve and align stakeholders together. The lasting difference from the project taught stakeholders to break the perpetual planning cycle and see the impact of taking coordinated action,” Capouellez says. “It changed the energy. We’re seeing passion and optimism in how to approach projects.”

And from an association standpoint, Capouellez says “the Transforming Neighborhoods project last year was instrumental for understanding how REALTOR® Party resources can be maximized for transformative change.”

Lawrence County

The Lawrence County Board of REALTORS® is collaborating with the local chamber and builders’ association to form a workforce housing coalition that will identify the greatest opportunities and barriers to development, create a list of recommended zoning reforms and then present them to elected officials. A Smart Growth poll will also gather community input and gauge public sentiment on workforce housing.

“Smart Growth polling is a very effective tool in communicating with local officials,” explains Capouellez. He adds that it helps local leaders understand the minds of their constituents.

The housing coalition is only one of several initiatives benefitting from NAR grants currently underway in Lawrence County. A commercial innovation grant will bring together stakeholders to explore opportunities for commercial buildings. A development conference will connect city officials with local developers. Brokers will participate in a legislative roundtable to learn what is happening on state and local levels to address the housing crisis and will also present an executive summary from the housing coalition. And, a consultant from Carnegie Mellon is working with the Community Development Corporation of Newcastle and commercial REALTORS® there to understand what anchor institutions are the best fit for downtown, examine possible zoning changes and identify housing and transit needs. All these initiatives are engaging various community groups, aligning stakeholders and creating lasting relationships.

Beaver County and Greater Allegheny Kiski-Area

Small, neighborhood projects can also make a big impact. Often it means recognizing the needs of communities that are frequently marginalized. In Beaver County, the local association is a sponsor for a community Juneteenth celebration. Work is also underway to create a community garden.

REALTORS® are excited because “we get to make a difference in areas that don’t get a lot of attention,” Capouellez explains.

The Greater Allegheny Kiski-Area Board of REALTORS® is partnering with Armstrong Trails to enhance and install amenities along a rail trail. The association will also be hosting two events where Smart Growth polling will be presented to county commissioners and township supervisors.

“Every NAR resource has the potential to transform neighborhoods, create the right strategy and empower stakeholder engagement,” Capouellez says.

Every project, large or small, presents an opportunity for REALTORS® to forge relationships, share their expertise and be involved in creating meaningful and lasting local impacts. The Greensburg Transforming Neighborhoods project and subsequent initiatives in other areas illustrate how Western Pennsylvania REALTORS® and a variety of stakeholders are willing to work together rather than in silos. These collaborations and connections result in more vibrant, livable communities.


Smart Growth Grants

Smart Growth Grants support state and local REALTOR® associations’ efforts to advance programs, policies and initiatives.

About On Common Ground

A free, semi-annual magazine published by NAR, On Common Ground presents a wide range of views on smart growth issues, with the goal of encouraging dialog among REALTORS®, elected officials, and other interested citizens.

Order Printed Copies of the Latest Issue