When MakerLabs opened the doors to a 3D printing, woodworking and laser cutting facility last July, its name quickly became synonymous as the workspace ‘in the heart of Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant’.
A new development will be soon be pouring its foundation and rising up over the objections of some Mount Pleasant residents as soon as this April. The four building development is displacing the maker community home started by founders Dallas Luther and Derek Gaw.
“We knew coming in there that demolition was always in the plans. That’s one of the reason we could get such a great deal out of it,” Gaw laughed, noting that there were certainly benefits out of the temporary space. “We weren’t planning to be the size we are now, and just as luck would have it we took over the entire space and went from 3,000 square feet to 12,000.”
The greenhouse-like building that houses MakerLabs has been busy with events, pop-up shops and education workshops. It’s even been a petri dish for successful Kickstarter campaigns like, A Pop-Up Affair and TZOA. “I didn’t really have an idea of the maker community was going to be like in Vancouver, but in other cities they had models that worked and things that didn’t and we took what we thought was best out of each and brought it here,” Gaw explained.
The unexpected growth still came with the constraints of knowing that they were tied with the soon-to-be demolished space. “Knowing we’d only be here temporarily, we made sure we didn’t put too much roots in infrastructure or too much marketing,” Gaw stated, adding, “With a long-term lease we’ll be putting more into both.”
With a long-term lease in the works, MakerLabs is planning for a new maker community location this April. Spaces in Strathcona and Commercial Drive have been catching both founders eyes. There’s real excitement about what a new space will introduce.
“We’re going to start a metal shop with full metal working capabilities, as well as a space for studio photography,” revealed Gaw. Perhaps the real surprise are the plans to inject some more digital love into the workshop space. “Right now, we’re focused a lot for creative work that’s physical,” Gaw elaborated, “but we want to move towards workshops that can provide things like coding.” Although no partnerships have been made with local bootcamps such as Lighthouse Labs or CodeCore, Maker Labs has mentioned that they “wouldn’t be opposed to it.”
Spaces of interest for MakerLabs go up to 25,000 square feet, but Derek is adamant that this factor does not change the affordability need of the space. Makerhaus, a similar workspace created for the maker community in Seattle, closed its doors last year after only 18 months. “It was too expensive,” Derek stressed, “A big part of that had to do with starting with too large a space and not being able to support the rent required to keep it going. In contrast, we’re able to be a lot more affordable and accessible because we started with a small space and expanded only once we could afford it.”
As for the surges in prices that usually befalls the community as a result of obtaining bigger and badder locations, Derek mentioned the $100 membership rate, “Ideally, this is the price point we want to keep to ensure it’s accessible and affordable for everybody.”
MakerLabs is aiming to secure its new home by mid-February.