The challenge of urban planning is eternal, but its vocabulary and techniques evolve. The latest wrinkle in the field is the concept of placemaking, a friendly word encompassing the dirty details and hard work of turning around underused and uninviting features of a community. Vacant lots, dilapidated sidewalks, stretches of vacant storefronts, poorly maintained streets all serve to drive down community morale, lower property values and to repel imagination and the investment that follows it. Fixing these problems is not easy, as government and community and landowners and real estate pros all need to get on the same page.
Placemaking addresses the fact that markets alone can’t always combat blight and that planning and community direction of some kind must co-exist with purely commercial approaches in order to successfully turn blighted areas into inviting, usable, accessible and safe places.
REALTORS® On Point (As Usual)
Naturally, REALTORS® and their associations are in ideal positions within their communities to see up close what areas need work and to have an advanced sense of what is needed to revitalize an area. Even though that’s a significant head start, the challenges remain: how exactly does need translate into action steps?
Happily, NAR has some great answers. Check out NAR’s recently published (and excellent) 38-page guide to placemaking (available for free download here).
Packed with examples from around the country, “Placemaking for REALTOR® Associations” will open your eyes to credible, proven solutions to thorny problems of blight and accessibility. Unsurprisingly, we find that when REALTOR® associations take the lead in their community efforts against dilapidation, it greatly increases the chances of success.
Project For Public Spaces
Foundational to the approaches NAR compiles in this guide is the work of the Project for Public Spaces, a venerable nonprofit dedicated to neighborhood revitalization success since 1975. Check out a 2008 NYT article on PPS here.