A maker space on Chapel Street will soon allow members to build metal prototypes and do office work at rentable on-site desk spaces in addition to activities ranging from sewing to 3D printing to brewing beer.
The City Plan Commission (CPC) last week unanimously approved Make Haven’s site plan for proposed interior renovations and expansion at the community tinkerer space’s new location at 770 Chapel St. between State and Orange.
Make Haven received approval to expand operations within office space that it currently rents in the basement of 770 Chapel. Make Haven currently uses 4,180 square feet in the basement of a 93,794 square-foot building. The approved proposal will allow Make Haven to expand to use up to 14,410 square feet in the building’s basement, and to install a metal workshop and rentable desk spaces on site.
J.R. Logan, one of Make Haven’s co-founders and the nonprofit’s “Chief Maker,” told the Independent that the City Plan approval coincided almost to the day with the city Building Department’s sign-off on Make Haven’s dust collection and laser ventilation plan for its woodshop, which has been closed since Make Haven relocated from its State Street storefront to the basement of 770 Chapel in March of this year.
Logan said the site’s woodshop, including its laser cutters and handsaws and other manifold woodworking tools, will be up and running in the next week or two now that he has received the necessary ventilation approvals from the city.
Logan told the City Plan commissioners before the vote that Make Haven allows hobbyists, small business people, and other tech-savvy individuals the tools and resources to develop product prototypes at a non-industrial scale. Make Haven also offers workshops and tutorials on how to use their various hands-on equipment.
Make Haven currently has 220 members. Membership costs $50 a month; Make Haven offers scholarships and need-based discounts. Members can get into the building and access the space’s tools at any time of day.
The spacious, open-plan, underground shop is subdivided into different work stations, not by walls but by carefully organized desks piled with large, tactile tools.
The space currently includes stations for sewing, 3D printing, beer brewing, printmaking, resin casting, vinyl cutting, electronics building, and radio tinkering, among other things. The woodshop, once its open, includes laser cutters and a bevy of hand tools.
Logan said he wants to add a metal workshop to the site because Make Haven currently allows members to build product prototypes digitally through Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines and in plastic through its 3D printers, but doesn’t currently allow members to take the next logical step in prototype development beyond digital and plastic. That next step, he said, is metal, and the metal workshop he envisions for the space will include Bridgeport mills and other devices that allow users to cut, roll, bend, and shape giant sheets of metal.
“It’s way better to work with something manually,” he said. “You can be way more iterative with a manual machine.”
Even though City Plan signed off on the metal workshop use expansion, Logan said Make Haven is still several months away from actually opening a metal workshop. He said he must now work on setting up the proposed workshop’s air filtration system.
Logan said he wil be able to act more readily on City Plan’s approval for Make Haven’s use expansion to include rentable desk spaces. He hopes to open up an office space adjacent to the tinkerer open-plan workshop with three desks for rent within a matter of weeks.
“We want to provide the ability for people who are working on prototypes in Make Haven to have their own private home base” on site, Logan said about the rentable desks. “A little spot where they would have their own stuff, their own storage.” He said other maker spaces in the region like Artisans Asylum in Boston have successfully experimented with providing rentable desks for tinkerers to do paperwork and other non-building activities that go into starting a business or selling or distributing the actual goods that one makes in the maker space.
Logan said he plans on making the rentable desks available for $200 per month.
Logan is currently one of only two full-time employees at Make Haven. He said the maker space has 10 to 12 regular volunteers who come by the shop to give lessons and hold workshops on how to use the various equipment. He said membership fees and funding from CT Next’s Innovation Places grant currently cover salary, rent, and utilities at 770 Chapel, but he hopes that the rentable desks will represent one more relatively passive line of income for the shop.
“I’ve heard many, many good things about this organization and the work that it does,” said Westville Alder and City Plan Commissioner Adam Marchand before the commissioners approved Make Haven’s proposal. “And I’m glad that the additional space is available for use. I think it’s a very happy circumstance that the use can expand into the additional space.”
“It’s fun to walk by at night,” added City Plan Commission Chair Ed Mattison, “and see everyone hunched over things. It looks like real important things are happening.”