From the very first potluck in 2006, G.A.L.A.’s founding board members dreamed of having a building that would someday serve as the anchor for their vision.
It would be 10 years later, after a decade of operating out of a home office, that G.A.L.A. would begin searching for a building to call its own. The organization had outgrown its humble beginnings and was ready to take the next leap - this time to establish Carroll County’s first Community Makerspace & Vocation Hub.
In the spring of 2017, real estate and funding opportunities aligned and G.A.L.A. purchased a 10,000 sq ft vacant commercial building at 23 Bay St. in Wolfeboro, NH. This purchase was made possible by a grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission that was matched 1:1 by a successful local crowdfunding campaign. The overwhelming support from hundreds of donors sent a message loud and clear: we want a makerspace and we want G.A.L.A. to make it happen!
The next step was to figure out how to optimize this new building as a makerspace. We began by organizing a series of field trips to learn about the many shapes, sizes, and focuses of makerspaces across the northeast. These trips helped us imagine creative ways that our Makerspace could serve the specific needs and aspirations of our community.
An open process
Opening doors to the new space
We wasted no time in getting community members into the building to have a look at G.A.L.A.'s new home. More than 100 people participated in a series of "hard hat tours", each concluding in small group brainstorming and visioning sessions to generate ideas for the future makerspace.
Community-sourcing of ideas
We continued this master-planning process with online surveys and public design charrettes at venues including the Wolfeboro Public Library, Wolfeboro Town Hall, and All Saints Church, each with onsite childcare, food, and transportation. There were also online "zooms" to accommodate those unable to attend in-person.
Listening to key partners
We convened focus groups, interviews, and meetings with key community partners including Wentworth Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO), Lakes Region Community College, Mount Washington Valley Job Coalition, and Lakes Region Technology Center, all of which are willing to explore partnership opportunities to help achieve shared goals.
Crow Bar Crew & Site Analysis
As soon as the building was purchased, our dedicated volunteers immediately reached out asking, “How can I help?” So we put them to work! The Crow Bar Crew, as they were called, helped with early demolition and renovations. Their work brought the building closer to code compliance and made it far more comfortable to stage our planning headquarters. We also conducted initial energy analysis, wetland delineation, and environmental testing of soil and water to meet grant funding requirements.
Feasibility Study & Business Plan
Before launching the capital campaign to raise funds for required renovations, we first invested in a robust Feasibility Study that helped inform a Strategic Business Plan. Empower Success Corps (ESC) helped facilitate this process. ESC is a nonprofit organization made up of high-impact volunteers who provide strategic and business consulting to New England nonprofits. Together, we interviewed countless stakeholders and anticipated partners, including several comparable makerspaces across the northeast. The resulting study and plan have been the guiding compass in helping prioritize the many moving parts of this multifaceted initiative.
Raising funds for our Tool Kitty Campaign means we will be able to purchase and stock the various makerspace shops with tools and equipment, be ready for programming when the doors when the doors open, and stay on track to achieve the goals laid out in the Strategic Plan.
Architectural Designs & Construction Timeline
The establishment of a makerspace constituted a “change of use” at 23 Bay St. triggering the need to bring the building up to code before opening it to the public. An architect and engineering team was hired to work with our volunteer Building Design Council to develop plans that meet the community’s needs, while also satisfying building, fire, and life safety code - within budget! What started as bubble diagrams turned into sketches, evolved into stamped architectural designs, and now Phase 1 of the building renovation is underway, and due for completion late 2021.
With Phase 1 construction of the Makers Mill building underway we are shifting gears from fundraising for bricks and mortar to fundraising for tools and equipment. Feels so much more real don't you think!?
Last year we ran a very successful Tool Raiser program that brought in some pre-loved equipment and tools for the shops, but there are still some very specialized items we need such as a laser cutter, CNC router, 3D printer, some of the bigger items for the wood and metal shops, and lots of supplies.
Join our Tool Kitty Campaign to help stock the makerspace with tools and equipment so we are ready to hit the road running when the doors open!