The new buzz word in urbanism is “makerspace”. It follows on the heels of “placemaking” which is slightly different. Placemaking focuses on creating a physical built environment that encourages people to congregate, stay and interact within a landscape. Market Square is a good local example. Makerspace (aka hackerspace, fablabs) began as shared space where do-it-yourselfers could go to share communal tools, technology and resources. Local examples include the 3D printer at the Guelph Public Library and the DIYODE Community space.
Makerspace is a concept that is growing and thriving and taking on new meanings. Guelph has been “makerspacing” for years. Innovation Guelph is one of our shining beacons. IG has been bringing entrepreneurs together and has nurtured over 32 new start up businesses to date.
With all this momentum, what’s next for Guelph? I am hearing in the community that there is a growing need for more collaborative space downtown — where placemaking meets makerspace. Since Innovation Guelph and the Chamber of Commerce are already located together in the downtown, we have a unique opportunity to create an innovation precinct in the surrounding area, south of the train tracks, east of Wyndham Street South.
As far back as 2011, a conversation began about creating an information technology hub in the downtown. At the time, Chamber of Commerce President Lloyd Longfield identified the tech sector as one area where Guelph was building momentum. Read article here.
Fast forward to 2016. The City of Waterloo Council recently voted in favour of repurposing a strategic public asset to create makerspace for technology, art and community groups. See what Waterloo is doing with their old library to drive economic development.
So Guelph, let’s restart the conversation again. Guelph is a creative place. We are leaders in re-purposing our built heritage for community benefit (Guelph Youth Music Centre, the Boathouse, Guelph Civic Museum, Art Gallery of Guelph). The private sector knows how to step up to the plate too (Petrie Building, Gummer Building, the Gooderham Worts Granary Building).
What role can the City play to move the conversation forward to expand makerspace for information technology leaders, web entrepreneurs, digital animators, designers, graphic artists, and others? Let’s talk about how we can leverage local assets — the Drill Hall, 2 Wyndham St. N. and other downtown space. Political leadership is essential. I’m ready….