By Stacie Scherman
A former factory of the Dort Motor Car Company, built a hundred years ago for the budding auto industry, soon could be the home for making things again, this time on a very 21st century model.
That might include people repairing small machines, people repairing bicycles, and even people making custom ballet tutus.
The former factory, at 129 N. Grand Traverse St. northeast of the Flint River, is being proposed as the future site of a community workshop and co-op space, according to Red Ink Flint board member Mike Wright.
In June, Red Ink, a non-profit organization seeking to develop community engagement and economic revitalization through the arts, youth entrepreneurship and community engagement, held an open house to gauge local interest and gather ideas about the use and layout of the space.
During the open house, attended by more than 100 people, Wright and others with Red Ink and Flint Area Reinvestment Office (FARO) gave informal tours of the first floor and information about the project.
Wright told visitors the current plan is to divide the first floor of the building into two sections. One side would be the community workshop, or “makerspace,” where community members would have access to a variety of tools and machines, including a section designated to woodworking.
The other side would be an entrepreneurial incubator space. “If you’re looking to start up a business but don’t have the funds to rent commercial space, you can start here and scale up,” said Wright.
The building is currently unoccupied and owned by Uptown Reinvestment Corporation. According to the proposals Red Ink would move into the building, become the tenant, and manage the makerspace project. Flint Area Reinvestment Office may manage the incubator side, but the details have not been worked out yet, Wright said.
Red Ink Director Joel Rash said Flint Steamworks, another Red Ink program, would also be part of the makerspace. He said Steamworks, which is currently operating above Flint Local 432, has outgrown the space and needs more room to add equipment. He added that the proximity of the building to the Flint bike trail network would especially benefit Steamwork’s bike repair program.
Rash said the building’s location would also help tie together Kettering University, UM-Flint, Grand Traverse and Carriage Town neighborhoods, Riverbank Park, and Chevy in the Hole.
“Activating this building will help advance the process of pushing downtown Flint’s recent success further into the surrounding neighborhoods, and providing more opportunities for all Flint residents,” he said.
Wright said he believes the space would bring together different segments of the community, including local artists, crafters, and retired factory workers.
“We have a whole wealth of knowledge in guys like my dad, who is a retired skilled tradesman who worked in Chevy in the Hole. I think they would like to be active in a space like this, there just hasn’t been an outlet for it. We have a lot of men and women like that in the community who have skills they can come and share,” Wright said.
Wright said that he envisions the makerspace as a complement to other community spaces in Flint like UM-Flint’s Innovation Incubator, Flint Area Reinvestment Office’s Co+Work, Mott Community College’s Fab Lab, and Steamworks.
“We can all exist as this ecosystem of creative spaces,” Wright said.
Porcha Clemons, a dancer who attended the open house, said, “I actually can see a dance studio here. I’m looking for a location and I can see mirrors up with a dance floor, busting out some moves here.”
Clemons said she would also like to use the space for her custom tutu design business. She said she has been making custom tutus for about a year, and that the makerspace would give her more room to spread out her materials.
Also at the open house, Keith Scrimger, a machinist, said he will need a place to move his small machine shop when he sells his house. He said he likes the idea of relocating to the makerspace because of the opportunities to both learn from and teach others.
“When you have people around you, you get ideas. And I think it could be an educational thing too. It’d be really cool to be able to work with people,” Scrimger said.
Rash said membership rates would be determined by build-out costs and typical rates of similar makerspaces in other parts of Michigan, which are around $50 to $75 per month. He said the makerspace is still in the planning stages, and that there is not a timeline yet to begin work on the building.
Rash said the number of attendees at the open house “really showed the level of interest in a space like Factory Two.”
EVM staff writer Stacie Scherman can be reached as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This is an updated version of a story originally published July 7.