Placemaking: Transforming Drab into 'Wow'

Learn how one NAR initiative can help you turn a neglected neighborhood into a vibrant gathering place for your community.

November 2, 2013

A farmers market emerges from a parking lot. An underused park morphs into a thriving music venue. Evocative murals transform a drab courtyard. These are just a few of the ways that “placemaking” can turn neglected neighborhoods into vibrant community gathering places.

Through NAR’s Placemaking Initiative, state and local REALTOR® associations can provide technical and financial assistance to members interested in spearheading such activities in their communities. The funding is available through NAR’s Smart Growth Action Grant program, which has awarded $1.2 million to more than 265 state and local associations since 2005. A new guidebook and webinar series help members and associations learn how to launch projects big and small.

“Placemaking projects don’t have to be hard or expensive to do,” says Kay Watson, CRS, GRI, broker-owner of K. Watson Properties, Metro Brokers, in Littleton, Colo., and chair of NAR’s Smart Growth Advisory Board. “Even if it’s just sprucing up a bus stop, the smallest changes can make a big difference.”

Last year the Michigan Association of REALTORS® tapped NAR Smart Growth funds to help members in Lansing beautify an underused park, host walking tours that showcased historic buildings, and launch a weekly farmers market. “Our neighborhood residents had nowhere to go for fresh food,” said Brian Huggler, ABR, CIPS, associate broker of Coldwell Banker Hubbell BriarWood in Lansing. “Now, on a Thursday afternoon there’s a parking lot full of people able to buy fresh produce for their families.”

REALTORS® in Atlanta, Medina County, Ohio, and High Point, N.C., are working on projects as well. Learn more at the REALTOR® Action Center.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.