Small Connecticut Boards Make Big Impact with Placemaking Grants
The Executive Officer of the REALTOR® boards of Greater Fairfield and Newtown, Connecticut declares that "Placemaking Grants are one of the best things that the National Association of REALTORS® has done for the local boards!" Frances Cormier-Carroll ought to know: both her boards made use of this small-scale, intensely local REALTOR® Party program to enhance their respective communities with inviting spaces last year. In fact, they're both applying for grants to fund new projects this year, and she anticipates the REALTOR®-supported placemaking activities will continue in this corner of Connecticut well in to the future.
The Placemaking Grant program helps REALTOR® associations plan, organize and build new public spaces in their local communities. "Not only do these activities help the towns and the REALTORS® by generating positive exposure," says Cormier-Carroll, "but the national association is really putting resources back in to the country through its local boards. Our members are proud of that, and our communities are grateful." She notes that the grant application process is user-friendly, and that the NAR staff provides invaluable assistance and advice as the boards have prepared their project proposals.
She credits the presidents of both boards with the energetic leadership it has taken to make their respective projects happen:
Last summer, the 650-member Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® (GFBOR) partnered with the Town of Fairfield to create a 'pocket park' on a small plot of unused public land at a downtown crossroads. 2016 President Stephanie Barnes, together with
co-chairmen Michael Traum and Kristen DeLaurentiis, approached the town to develop the project and identify the site. With a $3,000 grant from the REALTOR® Party, numerous planning meetings and about 100 man-hours of labor from the Fairfield Department of Public Works, an inviting and attractive park emerged, featuring new trees and plantings, a winding brick pathway, and three benches with plaques identifying the REALTORS® as the donors. In his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in October, Fairfield's First Selectman, a former REALTOR® and Past-President of GFBOR, noted the benefit of amenities like the new pocket park, in terms of both quality-of-life and property values.
The 156-member Newtown Board of REALTORS® used its $1,500 Placemaking Grant to help establish a "Fruit Trail" along an existing recreational path on the 185-acre campus of a former hospital that the town has taken over for public/private use and development. The Newtown Fruit Trail connects the community with nature, and its young plantings will feed the land and the people, as well as attract bees, birds, and butterflies. One July morning last year, board President Barbara Frey and seven of her REALTOR® colleagues actively joined the effort, mulching, weeding, and planting fruit trees and perennials. Not only did the REALTOR® team contribute the grant and considerable elbow grease, notes Cormier-Carroll, but the funds from the REALTOR® Party were spent at a local nursery, supporting the local economy.
"These boards, Newtown especially, are on the small side, but their members are deeply involved and committed to improving their communities," she says, adding that both of the placemaking projects have also served to strengthen the bonds between REALTORS® and local leaders. "There's been a great community response to these placemaking projects, from neighborly notes to recognition from officials. We are so grateful to NAR and the Placemaking Grant program for making this possible."
To learn more about how smaller associations are making a big impact with the REALTOR® Party's Placemaking Grants, contact Frances Cormier-Carroll, Executive Officer of the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® and the Newtown Board of REALTORS® at 203-255-0497.
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