To Dougherty, makerspaces are more than people “playing and doing art.”
The movement could have a positive impact in commercial real estate, too. “As a tool for innovation, it has great utility for the economy and inspiration,” said Andrea Foertsch, a real estate consultant in Belmont who is studying the concept.
She helps building owners reposition their spaces, and lately that means “orienting toward a new breed of incubator,” said Foertsch. Makerspaces have “a role to play in the future of manufacturing. In terms of the idea, enhancement, and prototyping.”
It’s no secret that industrial manufacturing in the United States is shrinking as corporations continue to ship jobs overseas.
But the spirit of inventiveness still thrives here. And makerspaces, say practitioners, are an outlet for action.
“This is all very American, we always want a frontier, and here we are, building one,” said Jesa Damora, a Somerville marketer with a colorful office in the middle of Artisan’s Asylum.
Damora, who joined shortly after the Asylum opened, would seem to embody its very spirit.
“Having no idea what I would do, but knowing I wanted to continue with the group as it moved onward,” she said, she created FunnelCake Marketing to promote artists. “I just wanted to be a part of that energy, which was palpable every time I’d come in the door. I knew it would continue to inspire me,” she said.
That DIY ethic also is inspiring mini-makers.
Two months ago, makerspace H3XL opened in a warehouse in Burlington to give children a creative place to learn robotics and computer programming after school.
Launched by Lexington resident Henry Houh, the 7,000-square-foot drop-in center is where middle-schoolers dabble in high-tech Legos and use laser printers and other tools that are out of reach for most school districts.
“Already we’ve gotten calls from a school in New Hampshire . . . [which] wants to schedule a field trip,” said Houh, who runs four-week classes for $95 and charges a drop-in fee of $12.
In Lowell, Eric Sack, director of technologistics at Lowell Telecommunications Corp., is testing the waters for Lowell Makes, a makerspace that would teach everything from welding to knife skills. Sack and his partners, John Noto and Kamal Jain, are planning a public meeting to solicit feedback and are searching for a space downtown.
Even in its nascent stage, excitement is building.
“I can barely get a cup of coffee without someone asking, ‘When are you going to open?’ ” said Sack. “There’s a lot of underused space here and the right mix of people.”
In a city like Lowell where the creative economy has been thriving for over a decade, “It’s not too alien of a concept,” said Sack. “We are not reinventing the wheel, we are rolling it a different way.”
Kathleen Pierce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.