Makers Mill’s Phase Two planning and fundraising are underway

dave ford and shawn papp look over phase two plans for makers mill


In 2017, our local nonprofit, Makers Mill, which was then known as GALA, made a significant move. We acquired the former Wolfeboro Power Equipment building at 23 Bay St. with the vision of establishing the county’s inaugural dedicated community makerspace and vocation hub.

We thought converting a small engine repair shop into a makerspace would be a straightforward process of sprucing up the place and launching classes. However, the Town of Wolfeboro soon intervened, citing a “change of use” that required the building to meet current code compliance standards before hosting public programs.

While this setback was somewhat anticipated, it led us to embark on a more comprehensive and community-driven approach. We engaged in a six-month master-planning and visioning process, where residents enthusiastically shared their aspirations for the makerspace. This involved gatherings at various venues, including the town hall, library, church function halls, and even tours of the building itself.

Following the community input phase, architects and engineers meticulously integrated the ideas with zoning regulations, infrastructure considerations, and building codes. The reality check came when the projected construction budget ballooned to four million dollars – a stark contrast to what we had initially anticipated. Despite the initial shock, we pressed on, realizing there was no turning back.

To manage costs, we divided the project into two phases. Phase One focused on achieving code compliance to obtain a certificate of occupancy and initiate programming. Phase Two, with its ambitious goals, addressed additional infrastructure improvements and expansion of facilities.

Jillian D’Amato and Josh Howell, review plans with volunteers at makers mill

Through diligent fundraising efforts leveraging grants and private donations, we secured enough funds to commence Phase One. In October 2022, Makers Mill opened its doors to the public, offering a diverse array of classes and workshops spanning various crafts and skills. In our first year alone we’ve hosted hundreds of classes on everything from woodworking, machining, metalsmithing and jewelry making, weaving, embroidery, mending, upcycling, digital design, leather working, watercolor, sketching, paper craft, abstract acrylic art, 3D printing, welding, stained glass, robotics and electronics, and even some of the organization’s original programs like starting plants from seed and apple tree grafting! 

And it’s not just workshops and classes. There is a certified career counselor onsite weekly, where anyone can receive professional career pathway support.  A business advisor from Small Business Development Corporation is available to support entrepreneurs.  They’ve hosted the Farmers Market, Cub Scouts, 4H Robotics, Wolfeboro Robotics, Kingswood Youth Center, Girls Leadership Camp, and Wolfeboro Chamber.  And interest and demand keep growing.

The success of the inaugural year highlighted the need to proceed with Phase Two sooner than expected. Currently, we’re in the midst of a final fundraising push to launch Phase Two this summer. Our volunteer committee overseeing Phase Two has a few new faces, including local architect and design professionals, and couple, Jillian D’Amato and Josh Howell, local landscaper and longtime GALA volunteer Shawn Papp, and a familiar name around town, David Ford, Wolfeboro’s former Public Works Director. With a dedicated volunteer committee and generous support from the community, we’re inching closer to our goal.

dave ford and shawn papp look over phase two plans for makers mill

Predictably, most of the challenges have been around escalating costs.  The majority of Phase Two will be funded by a one million dollar forgivable loan from the Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA), supplemented by local private donors and foundations.

Makers Mill still, however, faces an approximately $300,000 budget shortfall.  This financial hurdle just became a little less daunting after a local foundation offered a $150,000 matching grant challenge – meaning they will match every dollar up to $150,000, as an incentive to help close this budget gap and keep construction on schedule.

If Makers Mill can meet this matching grant challenge, construction will commence as early as this June and wrap up by the end of the year.

“Back in our office, we have a nickname for this project,” shared Steve Hoffman, a lead architect from Simons Architects, who also helped with Phase One during the height of the pandemic. “At our weekly staff meetings, this project gets dubbed ‘The Little Project that Could’ because it seems there’s no hurdle they can’t overcome with their steady creativity and commitment.”

For those interested in learning more or joining our efforts, please visit our website at www.makersmill.org or contact our office at 603-569-1500. We also welcome you to attend our free public tours held every Friday morning at 10:00 am and on the first Saturday of each month at the same time, located at 23 Bay St, Wolfeboro, NH. Makers Mill operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, formerly known as G.A.L.A.

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