Our original goal was to find a home for Asmbly and have it up and running by Summer/Fall 2019. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to secure the partnerships and funding that was needed to reach that goal.
We’re not giving up - in fact, we’ve joined forces with Moontower Makers in pursuit of a common cause. But right now we need some time to regroup.
For those of you interested in the details, read on:
We’re still as passionate as we were on Day 1 about bringing a large, professionally managed, nonprofit makerspace to Austin. Something akin to Artisan’s Asylum in Boston or the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub was our goal and is still our goal. For most of the founders, Asmbly has been a 20-30 hour/wk job for the better part of 6 months (on top of our day jobs). We’ve toured dozens of properties and negotiated extensively with a few of them. (We’re incredibly grateful to Brian Butterfield at Cushman/Wakefield for being Asmbly’s commercial broker.) We’ve met with several community benefit lenders and we’ve discussed partnerships with other Austin-area arts groups.
We’ve accomplished a lot that will be helpful as we continue to look for ways to make Asmbly happen. We have a robust financial model that will help inform financial needs and strategy decisions. We still have over $100k in low-interest loans pledged to Asmbly. And Asmbly, Inc. has been recognized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt entity by the IRS. All huge hurdles that will help us in the future.
So what was the biggest hurdle to actually opening Asmbly this summer? The short answer is: a tight real estate market in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas, and timing. We found a fantastic space for Asmbly in East Austin (near 183/MLK), but at 25k square feet, the space was too large for us to occupy alone. We explored collaborations with several other arts organizations to all join together under one roof. The timing, unfortunately, didn’t line up.
One of the most common questions we get is: why not just start something small and let it grow organically? It’s a great question and something we’ve spent a lot of time considering. After spending a lot of time researching makerspaces across the country, it became apparent that quality makerspaces are generally the ones that are professionally managed (there are some notable examples, like DMS). If we start small in a, say, 4,000 SF space, the maximum membership size for that space won’t support the salary for 2 full-time employees. But a 10-12,000 SF space will. And that was the size of facility that we weren’t successful in locating. (Sure, we found a few for lease, but their condition would have required $500k+ in upgrades just to pass a city inspection).
So what’s next?
We’re not giving up, but we’re taking a break. We need some time to regroup and recharge. One of us is starting a self-employed job. Another is starting a new job, and two of us just had a baby. We’re still passionate about helping to create an inviting space for Austin’s maker community.
If anyone out there has ideas or wants to discuss ways of helping Asmbly reach its goal, we’re all ears. Our goal hasn’t changed; we want to bring a vibrant, professionally managed, non profit makerspace to our city. The details of who, where, how, or the name on the building are all secondary to making this a reality for Austin's makers.