Making takes many, many shapes at the Columbus Idea Foundry.
A letter to the Columbus maker community from CIF Founder Alex Bandar begins to tackle the complexity of a 60,000 square foot space that will house blacksmiths to web designers.
When CIF moved to Franklinton in 2014, it became the largest makerspace in the world. The first floor of the former shoe factory gives working space to old-world craft techniques to modern technology, encompassing woodworking to 3D printing, welding, metal fabrication, video game development and more.
That was all just on the first floor, though. About half of that square footage was sitting empty on the second floor awaiting its makeover. And in August of 2015 those wheels were set in motion sooner than expected thanks to an investment from Nancy Kramer, Founder and Chairman of Resource Ammirati, and her husband Christopher Celeste, Founder and Managing Partner at Hatch Partners.
Buildout is well underway on the second floor which will consist largely of event, office and coworking space. To the some 300 members CIF has already accumulated, there is the potential for hundreds more to be added.
The second floor will bring in a curation of more work-from-your-laptop types.
“My vision has been to build an ecosystem, so we bring in either people who can provide services – so graphic artists, web developers, business developers, marketing people – all the things that creatives or techies don’t want to do,” Bandar says.
Build it on the first floor, turn it into a business on the second.
CIF takes the rolodex of specialities and puts it all under one roof. Bandar hopes it will lead to face-to-face collisions, amplifying the ability and impact to get things done. (He says the several watering holes nearby like Strongwater, Rehab and Land Grant don’t hurt, either.)
Kris Howell will roost on the second floor as the chief experience officer, coordinating businesses, managing the coworking space and generally making sure business owners have what they need to be successful.
The space itself will include 30 private offices suitable for a couple of desks. Anything that’s not a a physical room with a locked door is considered coworking space – of which there is plenty. In between clusters and mazes of offices lies open areas to be outfitted with desks, tables and couches.
Six to seven nooks will function as “pocket parks.”
“There are lots of different small environments that you can break away if you want either to work privately away from everybody or just break away with somebody to meet,” Howell says. “They are designed specifically to be functionally separate from everything else.”
Functionally separate, but aesthetically connected with tin can telephones, so Bandar hopes.
There will also be conference rooms and phone booths, and a few themed cubbies that will offer a unique sort of hidden-secret work environment.
With its high ceilings, the second floor buildout includes a mezzanine that will provide a bird’s eye view of the second floor. It will also lead members and workers to the rooftop patio that boasts some impressive views of the neighborhood as well as Downtown. (And a drone heliport.)
A few anchor tenants have already signed on to the second floor including Taivara and Multivarious Games. Multivarious will host The Sandbox, creating a workspace and community for game development in Central Ohio. (More details on The Sandbox here.)
CIF wants that collaborative energy to extend to the entire second floor, “Ultimately creating an environment full of people that are engaged both in their own pursuits, as well as interest in what other people are doing,” Howell says.
Bandar calls the informal event space in the middle of the second floor the heartbeat of the building. Stadium style seating tiers its way up the the mezzanine. A more formal event space leverages technology as a way to play with education.
Bandar is eager to explore a flipped education model, expanding it into flipped conferences. With a flipped experience, students or participants listen to the lecture/speaking portion before hand and during the actual event head straight for the discussion or the Q&A.
What that education will be on is nearly boundless.
“With places that are finally dust-free, noise-free and climate controlled, we can teach software, design, business, marketing,” Bandar says. “We can have lectures on beer brewing and coffee roasting and 3D printing in chocolate.”
“It’s very flexible and it could turn into anything,” Howell adds.
While plenty of events will err towards the educational, fun is also on the docket.
“For about 20 percent of our members we’re a productive factory where they run their businesses, for the other 80 percent we’re a social club with tools, and so we need to have movie nights, happy hours, community build projects, a lot of meetups, and things like that,” Bandar says.
Looking at every angle, he knows it’s…a lot, joking “Our 30 second elevator pitch is an hour long tour.”
Aside from capital, Bandar credits Kramer an Celeste with helping to put some finesse around their brand and mission.
“It has been like an informal yearlong masters’ class in marketing, operations, finance, and personal life coaching,” he says. “They have also introduced us to amazing people and strategic partners, and have helped us to secure a construction loan for our second floor renovation, as well as provided capital investment to our business that has allowed us to hire up, focus on longer-term strategic needs – rather than putting out short-term fires – and have generally educated and empowered us to be a real startup business.”
One thing CIF can be called is a life-long learning center.
It fits into the sort of disassembled college campus Howell says he sees developing in Franklinton. There are neighbors like 400 West Rich, COSI and Glass Axis. And soon, there will be more residential neighbors to join.
From the roof, Bandar points to the locations of future developments. There are some 700 units that could come online over the next few years, many which are specifically targeting creatives and entrepreneurs.
“I really think that this can be the center of the startup sphere, not just the physical facility, but the programming, the national branding we’re trying to wrap around it,” Bandar says.
CIF is currently looking for entrepreneurs interested in office and coworking space which is expected to come online in January 2017, to schedule a tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.