Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Uninviting Space to Welcoming Community Gathering Place

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

What was once a run-down, uninviting and unused space is now a beautiful, new pocket park in downtown Fairfield (CT).  The park, which is surrounded by a residential area, is now being enjoyed by its neighbors who are meeting there and walking or jogging through the park.

 “Thank you for the lovely pocket park you sponsored at the corner of Reef Road and Oldfield Road.  I live next to the park on Oldfield and am enjoying walking through the park every day.  What a wonderful addition to the neighborhood!”  Note sent by a neighbor.

It all started when the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® (GFBOR) contacted the Town of Fairfield to discuss how they could partner with the town on any upcoming community projects.   The town suggested developing a pocket park on an underutilized town-owned property.

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Oldfield Park was selected due to its location which is halfway between the downtown shopping area and our beach.  The site is on a main roadway and two blocks from the train station. All that was on the site was an old bench, hardly a welcoming spot for the community to gather.

GFBOR’s Committee and the town met on numerous occasions to discuss the project and the plans to transform the space.  Fairfield’s Department of Public Works spent about 100 hours of labor on the project and the town’s Tree Warden helped to add an aesthetic appeal to the site by designing a landscaping plan that included both plants and trees.  One huge tree was removed and the plantings were selected to make the park colorful and inviting.

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We decided to add a winding brick pathway to run through the park and three benches, which our Board was able to purchase with NAR’s Placemaking grant.  The new space also has small grasses, three ornamental flowering cherry trees and a perennial bed  with an assortment of roses, hydrangeas and flowering perennials that will blossom throughout the year.

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The Town’s First Selectman is a former REALTOR® and Past President of our Board so he totally understands property values and a how town’s amenities are a great benefit to its residents both for increasing values as well as for their personal enjoyment.   First Selectman Tetreau said, “It is so rewarding to see such a beautiful transformation of this area thanks to the successful public-private partnership between the GFBOR and the Town. I appreciate and thank everyone from the GFBOR and the Town who contributed to this community project for all to see and enjoy.”

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 GFBOR President Stephanie Barnes knows that Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities.  She said that “Placemaking creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better.  And REALTORS® make great partners as they live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them”.

Our Committee chairmen, Michael Traum  and Kristen DeLaurentiis, are already seeking out our next project to enhance our town.  We found this to be a perfect blend of local government and REALTORS® working together for the betterment of our community where everyone benefits.

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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
opportunities.

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.

Diversity
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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Placemaking

Placemaking is a way to make your community a better place to live and work by transforming public spaces into vibrant community places.