Makerspace Update, June 2019

Happy Spring!  We realized recently that we’ve been so busy working on our new building at 23 Bay St. that we haven’t sent an update for quite a while, so here it is!

I believe the last time we sent a proper update was when we were convening community members for “visioning sessions” to gather feedback about how the future Makerspace & Incubator can best serve community needs and interests.  We had great attendance at those meetings and generated tons of valuable feedback.    Here’s a quick glimpse at how we have been integrating that feedback into our plans and what we’ve been up to since.

Master Planning Report:  Our architecture and engineer team – Leslie Benson Design, D/B, and Scott Simons Architects – completed a GALA Community Makerspace Master Planning Report last fall that compiles all of the feedback generated from the visioning sessions and survey results, alongside a thorough assessment of the building as it relates to zoning, fire, and life safety code compliance, ADA, and structural integrity.   This is a hugely valuable document that will help us make informed decisions about how to best approach renovations, including how we might want to prioritize and tackle the next steps in phases.

Feasibility Study & Strategic Business Plan:  Meanwhile, we are using funds from the CDFA-L5 tax credit grant to work with Empower Success Corps in developing a Feasibility Study (complete) and Strategic Business Plan (in progress).  These documents compile the market research we’ve been conducting with other makerspaces across New England, as well as demographic trends, workforce, and labor market stats, and interviews with key stakeholders.  The process is ensuring that our makerspace builds upon best practices and can be financially sustainable while also meeting our social impact mission.  

The process has also included many hours meeting with partners related to career development and workforce efforts including the Community College System of NH (CCSNH), Work Ready NH, Sector Partnerships, and local industry.  The completed Feasibility Study summarizes these conversations and findings and outlines how GALA can best position itself to support shared goals around support career pathways toward gainful employment and closing regional workforce skills gaps. 

Environmental Assessment Phase 1 & 2: If you drove by the building a few weeks ago you would have seen Nobis Engineering with a huge drilling rig used to draw soil and water samples from eight different boreholes on the property, including a couple inside the building!  This work is part of an Environmental Assessment, something we are required to do because federal grant funds are part of this community development project.  The soil samples are in the lab right now, so keep your fingers crossed that there is no required remediation!

When are you going to start running classes in the new building?   We hear this question nearly every day, which means you are as excited as we are to open shop! But building codes are building codes, and more importantly, we want to know the building is safe and accessible before opening to the public.  Because our vision is technically a “change of use” we will eventually need to sprinkler the entire building, install an elevator, and bring the entire building up to current fire and life safety codes.  Thankfully the town is willing to grant us temporary permission to open certain parts of the building to the public upon completion of a few smaller improvements – updated fire alarm, emergency exit lights, ADA compliant bathroom, and code-compliant egress from the second floor.  These improvements are underway thanks to the support from Carrier Building & Development.  I also can’t thank Bob Cole and Mark Hempton enough for the tireless commitment over the last several months to making the upstairs space more inviting and comfortable.  If all goes as planned, these renovations will be completed by the end of July and we can start running classes and hosting events as early as this Fall.  The town will uphold this permission as long as we can demonstrate ongoing progress on the longer-term improvements.

How can I get involved?  This is another great question that we hear often, and the best answer is this: Attend one of our Volunteer Training this month, Sunday, June 16th and Monday, June 17th.  The complete details can be found here:  Attendees will learn about our governance and decision-making process, and also have time to self-organize around priority areas that interest them like: planning a calendar of workshops, helping to fundraise for renovations, brainstorming how to get the word out, strategizing around how to build partnerships with local industry and colleges, and more.  This is a half day retreat/training with lunch included that will give you a deep-dive into how best to support the next steps of the Community Makerspace.  We REALLY hope you can join us.  If you can’t attend the training but still want to help out, please just call the office at 603-569-1500 and let me know how you’d like to help based on our current needs.  

And while it’s true that we need people to lend their time and talent, it’s also true that we need your continued financial support to keep the ball moving forward.  In fact, we really need it now more than ever.  This is a challenging “in between” phase where we’ve taken on a monumental project that will be a huge asset to this community but cannot yet use the building to its fullest potential.  We continue to apply for grants, but nothing can replace your donations, which are a direct investment in the far-reaching positive impacts this Makerspace & Incubator will have on the community.   So when you see a spring fundraising appeal in the mail soon or notice a request over social media, please know that the success (and timeliness!) of this project is directly related to each and every one of us contributing our time, talent, and treasure.

Let me wrap up this update by simply saying, Thank You.  Thank you for your patience as we adjust to the responsibility and opportunity of such a wildly exciting project.  We are reaffirmed every day about the critical need for this type of community hub and service, and we know that with sustained hard work and diligence, we will be unlocking possibilities that this community has to even dream!  And we can’t wait to see the fruits of the hard work and dedication!

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