With more than 46,000 primary members spanning over multiple counties and municipalities, the Miami Association of REALTORS® is the nation’s largest local REALTOR® association – a distinction that can present unique challenges when it comes to applying for the REALTOR® Party grants one-by-one. To accommodate certain economies of scale required by organizations this size, the REALTOR® Party devised a scaled-up program for “mega-boards;” over the past three years, Miami has used its lump sum of just over $260,000 to complete 29 projects with 58 unique events to make a mega-success of the pilot program, with positive impact apparent all over South Florida.
Danielle Blake, Miami’s Chief of Public Policy, says the concept has had a profound effect on the REALTORS®’ relationship with elected officials. “It’s the perfect program for any Government Affairs Director (GAD). It allows us to approach elected officials and government staff with a positive message and resources to improve communities. Before I felt like we were always on the defense in opposing ordinances. The best part is this allows us to have an ongoing dialogue with a city knowing we have the funding to back up the ideas that come out of it.”
In the span of three years, the implementation of those ideas has involved approximately 21,940 REALTOR® members and ranged from fairly simple ribbon-cutting ceremonies to deeply complex projects like the development of a prototypical container-housing on a plot of county-donated land. In between, there have been events strengthening partnerships with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), and Chapman Partnership, an organization serving the homeless. REALTORS® hosted one conference to explore zoning changes to mitigate climate change, and another on condo financing. In 13 different neighborhoods, they have supported projects from cross-community trails to community gardens to Better Block events; built dog-parks and hydration-stations, and a market plaza for local entrepreneurs that celebrates Bahamian culture.
Several innovative projects could serve as models in other communities around the country, notes Jessica Mendez, Miami REALTORS®’ Manager of Community Initiatives. “One neighborhood we’d already been working with was so excited about the partnership that they approached us to create a Sensory Garden to appeal especially to people on the autism spectrum. The project happened to coincide with Autism Awareness Month, and it inspired us to create special programming for our members that addresses the needs of clients affected by the disorder. We had experts come in and explain all the various terms and acronyms, services available, and particular housing needs — like proximity to those services.” The understanding that participants gained from this class sets them apart in terms of the expertise they can now offer their clients, she notes.
Another great success has been the Miami Shores Plaza 98 project, says Mendez. This community gathering space is actually a busy public roadway during the week, but every first Saturday night during Miami’s cooler months, it becomes a major community pedestrian attraction, with a colorfully painted asphalt, outdoor furniture built by REALTOR® members, and themed programming from “Movie Night Under the Stars” to “BBQ & Brews.” “Using the Mega-Grant, we were able to help plan the project with the community, funded and built the furniture, and signed on as a sponsor of the first annual event series,” explains Mendez. “But the idea is, now that they have their ducks in a row, the community is responsible for sustaining this new asset. We believe projects like this one could be replicable just about anywhere.”
To learn more about how the Miami REALTORS® have harnessed the power of REALTOR® Party resources and their own culture of volunteer man-power to improve their communities, contact Danielle Blake, Chief of Public Policy, at 305-468-7015; or Jessica Mendez, Manager of Community Initiatives, at 305-468-7074.