A booming Leesburg-based makerspace could soon be moving to a downtown building once envisioned to be a nonprofit center.
Makersmiths co-founder Pat Scannell confirmed that the makerspace is exploring a move from its current digs on Lawson Road to a space almost double its size on South King Street. Scannell and co-founder Mark Millsap opened Makersmiths last August, and it quickly became a popular fixture in the “maker” movement. The approximately 3,000-square-foot Lawson Road space holds countless tools and gadgets, from 3D printers to laser cuts to circular saws—even on down to your “simple” craft materials like paper and glue. And all these tools are available to help its clients on anything from a home project, to product testing, to launching a small business. Clients range from entrepreneur to hobbyists.
The extra space would allow Makersmiths to unload its massive warehouse, where many of the tools and gadgets donated by community members currently are sitting in storage because there isn’t enough room for them in the Lawson Road building.
“We have hundreds of thousands of dollars of tools in our warehouse that can’t be used” because of the lack of space, he said. “Spending a little more on rent allows us to take those tools and assets not being used and make them available to the rest of the community.”
Along with the added space, Scannell sees the location of a makerspace in downtown Leesburg as a real bonus for the rest of the community.
“The idea of having us downtown is a real positive for a lot of different forces in town. It supports economic revitalization and the diversification of activities in downtown,” he said.
Scannell points to First Friday festivities as one example. Having Makersmiths downtown would allow those who want to enjoy First Friday offerings, but maybe aren’t interested in sampling beer and wine, the opportunity to tinker away on some of Makersmiths’ gadgets and get their creative juices flowing. It could certainly also be a happy haunt for families.
He also notes that the space was in its past life a bottling facility for Coca Cola, so a return to its manufacturing roots is “an important tip of the hat to the history of that building.”
Makersmiths has started a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the increase in rent for the makerspace’s first year of occupancy, not expected to be until early 2017. More information on the Kickstarter can be found online at kickstarter.com/projects/322853791/makersmiths-20.
The negotiations represent a change in plans for Loudoun Cares, which once envisioned the 207 S. King St. building as a support hub and referral source for the county’s nonprofits.
In an email, Loudoun Cares Executive Director Susan Khalil said negotiations are not finalized.
It was within the past decade that Loudoun Cares board members had envisioned a major nonprofit center at 207 S. King St., along with the adjacent building at 8 South St. While the South Street building was renovated and provides space to six nonprofit tenants, plans for the King Street building were never realized.
“Since the purchase of the King and South Street buildings in downtown Leesburg, Loudoun Cares has approached each renovation as separate but supporting projects. Renovation of the King Street building was delayed as it presented a number of challenges especially for a nonprofit organization. As such, after completing an extensive engineering review of the building, the Loudoun Cares Board of Directors determined that given the projected cost relative to current market alternatives, their proposed renovation to create a second multi-tenant facility no longer represented the best option for establishing an additional Nonprofit Center,” the statement reads.
The statement goes on to say that the Loudoun Cares board voted to investigate the possibility of selling the King Street building, while retaining the current South Street building and its current nonprofit tenants. The board also has directed its building committee to investigate other properties that “would allow Loudoun Cares to expand its core mission of providing affordable mission space to entities within the Loudoun nonprofit community.”
“That investigation is ongoing,” the statement says.