By Nick Sabatine, rce, cae, CEO, Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS®
Like many small southern towns, Greenville, S.C., 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 underused spaces transformed.
Timing for a REALTOR® association project could not have been better. Just when the Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® was making community engagement and placemaking a priority, the city of Greenville was looking for help to give new life to one of its 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 downtown. The city, along with the local business owners' association, targeted for development a blocked, dead-end street between rows of historic buildings.
The plan was to transform this space into a place where residents could gather and where businesses could hold outdoor events. It would be the focal point and centerpiece for the neighborhood.
According to Tracy Ramseur, the city's senior economic development project manager, the need for the space is driven in large part by the -community-minded entrepreneurs opening 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 that host a variety of free community events attracting hundreds of people to the village's epicenter. The new plaza will serve as the ideal backdrop for those special events."
The Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® partnered with the city of Greenville by providing a $3,000 placemaking grant from the National Association of REALTORS®. "Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities by creating places where people can interact and engage," says Lisa Deluca Alexander, 2018 Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® president. "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."
This project involved a lot of moving parts, with citizens, business owners, and nonprofits all providing input. In the end, the finished project exceeded all expectations.
On Feb. 22, the city held a ribbon-cutting and news conference. Not only did multiple media outlets report on the project, but a large community presence also turned out. Gratitude from the city council, residents, and business owners for NAR's placemaking grant was clearly evident.
NAR's community outreach grants (Housing Opportunity, Diversity, Smart Growth, and Placemaking) enable -REALTOR® associations to strategically engage with their communities and work as partners for redevelopment. To apply, visit http://realtorparty.realtor/communityoutreach