New Building Committee Update


#1

Hello fellow MakeICT members! I would like to share an update related to the recent activities of the New Building Committee as we pursue opportunities to grow our community.

The membership made it clear leading up to our annual meeting in June that one of the board’s priorities going into 2019 was to identify a new home for MakeICT’s makerspace. Working toward that end with the help of the board and area leads, we have compiled some basic criteria to use in identifying whether a potential location would meet our needs. Those criteria are:

  • Approximately 20,000 square feet
  • 24/7 access
  • HVAC throughout
  • Adequate utilities for equipment, such as electrical, gas, etc
  • Close to downtown preferred

As we continue to refine and expand our criteria, we have conducted some informal searching for a space. Potential opportunities have been recorded on our admin drive so others interested can review.

During this time, one of our own members and longtime supporters, Curt Gridley, brought a building proposal to the MakeICT board. We are excited to be presented with this type of opportunity, but also want to proceed with caution as we do our best to evaluate this specific location as well as our organization’s true capacity to make such a change at this time.

Below you will find details about the proposed building and its location as well as the agreement and timeline. We would like to invite our membership to engage in this process by reviewing the proposal, asking questions, and expressing their desires for a new building. I’d like to ask that everyone remember our first standing rule and be excellent to each other during this time.

As one of the founding members of MakeICT, I am thrilled to see this community continuing to grow and am excited for what is to come regardless of the time and place. I am confident that our membership at large will collectively make a wise decision on this subject and am grateful to be a part of the process.

Thank you to each of you for your involvement in MakeICT, your many contributions to making in Wichita, and for engaging with our community during this time.

Sincerely,
Jens Torell
MakeICT Co-Founder
New Building Committee Lead

Location: 334 N St Francis
2½ blocks north of Douglas, just west of train tracks, SE corner of 3rd & St Francis
Immediately north of the new WAVE outdoor music venue that opens in September
Within 3 blocks of The Yard, City Arts, Old Town Square, downtown YMCA, Norton’s Brewing Co, Nifty Nut House, and Espresso to Go Go. 4½ blocks directly north of Intrust Bank Arena and 4½ blocks directly south of St Francis hospital.
Across from Flats 324 apartment building, with more lofts planned for NE corner of property.

Building:
Up to 18,000 square feet, including roughly 6,400 sq ft open warehouse
Overhead door in SE corner of warehouse space
Two stories with (planned) elevator access to second floor
Full heat and A/C in all areas
120/208V/1200Amp and 277/480V/1600Amp 3phase electrical service, along with gas service
150 parking spaces part of building property, and roughly 370 spaces ½ block south in free public lot
Main entrance to building planned for east side next to parking
See building plans here
Curt’s intent for the remainder of the 44,000 sq ft building is to develop a tech center with co-working space, meeting areas, studios, etc. likely owned and managed by a new non-profit entity

Financial info and proposed agreement:
3+ year lease starting at $5/sq ft/yr, increasing to $6/sq ft/yr in year 3
(MakeICT currently pays $3.81/sq ft/yr)
Estimate utility costs to double due to doubling our current space
Assuming no change to membership or dues and no donations, under this agreement MakeICT would run out of money at the end of 2019. Therefore this move would require a strategy to cover additional cost through increased membership, increased dues, and/or fundraising. Curt has asked MakeICT to provide evidence it can afford the lease terms, preferably in the form of a member-approved dues increase of $10/mo.

Timeline:
MakeICT membership meeting and subsequent vote in September to allow board to proceed with lease agreement
Pending membership and board approval, agreement signed in October and 6 month notice given on current property
Move in and start lease payments for new building in January 2019
Lease for 1500 E Douglas would end in April


Quarterly Meeting September 16
#2

There are a number of things certain and lot more uncertain. Please keep an open mind and think about it for a bit. Talk to other members. As much of the membership as possible needs to know about the deal and think about it. Ask questions. Let a board member or two know what you think (in a nice way if possible).

A few important details are

  • Lease versus buy
  • Raise dues or keep cost the same

This deal is a lease with a high likely hood of dues being raised in some way.

As a board member, I want everyone to think about that hard. I see good reasons for doing each of those either way. The question is, what do the members of MakeICT really want?

This is just one deal and MakeICT does not have to take it. I think it is great that we have something to ask these question about and get some feedback on a “real” deal from the membership.

Do keep in mind building and deals like this don’t grow on trees. I know the timeline is short on this deal, but I think that will be the case no matter what. Emotions and logic are going to be blended together a lot. At least that has been the case for me. Try and use logic as much was possible, but at the end of the emotions is why we humans do what we do.

It is easy to say no to this deal. It is a lot harder to say yes and a lot more work.


#3

#4

My very first thought was losing membership with the combination of moving and raising dues at the same time. A 25% loss of membership with $35 dues will leave us even with current cash flow and in the red every month with the higher overhead of a new building.

Does anyone have a list of comparable properties for lease? I would be interested in the price per square footage on them.


#5

www.loopnet.com/ I was going to list buildings but my computer isn’t behaving.

This is the only industrial property, I found, downtown that is fully air conditioned.


#6

I added 2 new sights to ponder to the spreadsheet.

  1. Advance Products 1101 E Central $3 / sq ft 35K-77K https://www.weigand.com/property/47554317/1101-e-central-wichita-ks-67214/#fullscreen-gallery

2)Metro-Meridian HS 301 S Meridain 26,393 sq ft


#7

From what I’ve seen MakeICT dues are pretty darn cheap, So I don’t see how anyone who regularly uses the space could really get too upset at a rate increase. But for people who don’t visit a lot, for whatever reasons, this could be a reason to turn off that auto renewal.

Something I don’t see mentioned here, but I believe I saw mentioned elsewhere, is that we don’t know for sure we would have 24/7 access to this space. For me that is a deal breaker.


#8

I have heard it said many times that we have many members that pay dues but rarely visit the space or use it at all…

It should be taken into account that any membership due increase could potentially trigger the reaction of those members stopping payment with the mentality of ( why pay more for something I am not using.)

With the move of a Makerspace costing on average of a 20% loss of member and the membership loss from a due increase added to the membership we will lose by moving into an area of questionable safety has anyone taken the time to figure out the bare minimum membership we will need to be able to sustain a lease at 334 N St Francis?

I would really hate to see Makeict come to an end or have to sell off equipment and shut down due to poor decisions made.


#9

We would need around 457 members at $35/mo to break even, based on my copy of Jen’s spreadsheet. We would need around 640 members at $25/mo to break even. Last I heard from David, I think MakeICT is around 440 right now.

If people generally feel membership isn’t likely to grow after doubling the size of the space and improving parking, air conditioning, power, etc. then staying in the current location probably makes more sense. However, when we moved into the current building in 2015 and raised dues from $10 to $25 there was a pretty significant spurt in growth. YMMV.


#10

Most Makerspaces get a boost in membership when the move is over.

This is one thing that was pretty consistent in my questions to the folks that had moved at the Nation of Makers Conference. We like being conservative in our estimates, so we typically don’t add that in, but that is exceptionally consistent.


#11

Good point on the amenities and likely boost in membership. We will essentially have 6 relatively comfortable months before we have to start getting nervous I suppose. Would really be nice to have a bigger cushion though… unforeseen expenses and all.


#12

Do you feel it is worth risking the future of the Makerspace on the hopes the membership will rapidly grow?

I know I will not continue to be a member in that location.
I did not know anything about the area so I went there and I was terrified by what I seen and learned…Also the people I have spoken with have all claimed they will not continue to be members should the space move to that location.

Are there any safety nets in place to assure the makerspace can continue should the membership numbers not support the 334 N St Francis location if it moves there?

The likelihood of not only recovering lost members but growing additional numbers before Makeict runs out of money to pay its bills seams to be a very hard sell.

I do most of my making at home and most my time at Makeict is spent volunteering rather than making so I really do not have much to lose if the space moves somewhere I will not follow. I do however have major concerns for the people that this truly is their home away from home if there is even a 1% chance a move could cause the space to stop existing we simply should find other options.

Please share your thoughts on the concern I have of the space ending.


#13

Of course we cannot bank on new members joining, that is why we left it out of the calculations. I just thought people needed to know … we also can’t bank on 20% of the people leaving… darned people just don’t follow the statistics worth a dang. In any case, as a board member, I have to choose the conservative option which is count on people leaving and don’t count on them showing up. (I just wanted people to be aware we were taking the conservative stance… which is prudent.)

Please share what experience you had visiting the new location. I have not seen anything scary there, but I have only been there 4 or 5 times,… but I would certainly like to know if there is… my personal safety is important to me.

Even if we decide to go to this location, we should be looking at all the options, in my opinion. We need to make sure and do the right thing for the Makerspace as a whole.

I encourage you to continue the debate.

If you are one of the folks who is interested in keeping us in the current space, I would encourage you to join Kez and myself on Monday Sept. 3 where we will put together options for staying in the space. Our challenges in staying in the space are electrical, space, parking … maybe more.


#14

Why the rush to vote in only weeks? Move in 4 months?

It would be more responsible to plan the move say 1 year down the road. Make adjustments to dues if that is what needs done, and build up a cushion before any move takes place. If for example we raised dues next month, and planned the move for next August, the space could add a substantial cushion to absorb these unknowns.

It would also give us time to research other potential properties.

Im sorry, but this is just the financial aspect of it and im not feeling confident so far. To be honest I didn’t think we needed a new space. Im just going along with the membership voting that we do. So put me down as slightly biased towards staying put for a while longer.


#15

This last paragraph is a bit concerning. We know that the #1 issue for members is space and/or finding a larger space. Do you believe that the space we currently have is enough and the members who are expressing the need for more space are incorrect? Or that the current space we have is just fine to facilitate the increase in membership? Or do you believe that there are enough members already and that we really do not need to grow and an organization? I would love to know if you think the space we currently have is sufficient.


#16

I am 120% for us finding a new location. We need to dedicate all possible efforts to finding a new location.
The 334 N St Francis location is just not the right location for us or our members.

My experience when visiting that area are as follows.

When I got off work Friday evening I drove down to the building excited to see the possible building.
I found between 8 and 10 transients leaning / camped out on the sidewalk that borders the building,
There was no less than 30 other transients within a block of the location.
Multiple people where sitting / camped out in the ally by the location.
After some research this upsurge in transients at that time frame could be due to several Soup kitchen / mercy aid buildings in the area.
I returned to the area Saturday morning around 11 am. ( I was heading to the yard )
at the corner of St Francis stood a man with his pants completely down he had one hand on his genitals and he was waving the other hand while singing.
I asked some staff at the yard about the area, I was informed they have a break in at least once a month and one man volunteered that he comes to work early every day to make sure no homeless broke and no one is sleeping in the lot.
Walking around the area while the people I was with shopped. I was hit up for money twice by the local transients.
Driving by the building there were no transients on the sidewalk but it had lots of trash left behind or the items could have belonged to the group of transients that where occupying the parking lot on the other side of 3rd I believe there was another free food offering taking place as they where surrounding a pink vehicle.

I spoke with an police officer about the area and he told me it was a horrible area nothing but trouble and indicated the police do not go there alone … i forget the exact working he used however he did not like the area.

Once again I am 120% for finding us a new space … And if that means figuring out how to make more use in our current space until we find a viable option I will gladly come to that meeting.


#17

I personally don’t think the space we have is enough.

The people in ceramics are crawling all over each other. I think people will want to eliminate this area or that area that they don’t care about, but that someone else very much cares about and there will be so much bickering and in fighting that the space will dissolve.

I have created CAD models of the space and tried to look at ways of rearranging, but I can’t make space out of thin air.

I think we are on the very edge of where we need to be for parking at our current space. If we get many more members in here I will have to park in an area that I am uncomfortable with. I am already jumpy when I leave the space a night.

We are at the top of our electrical service. We really can’t add any more big machines even if we have the space without reworking the electrical… and that is expensive in a building we have only 4 years or so left in.

I think if people do the analysis, they will see the same things I am seeing.

Also, I am here to represent the folks at the makerspace, so if the majority of the folks really want to stay, I will vote for staying even though I personally think it is a really bad idea.


#18

Josh,
Thanks for sharing your experiences in the area. I appreciate you checking that out for us.


#19

Not a problem I wish I could report positive things about the location,
I keep hearing Jens Torell is leading up the new building committee.
Out of curiosity are there others helping him on his search for a new location?
Is there anything that can be done to aid him in his efforts?


#20

I noticed your wording here.

Is the vote being framed as a we either move to this location or we do not move at all?

As I understand it the board has no obligation to seek the members approval for a move and I also understand Curt is a likable guy that many of the board favor and would possibly vote to move to his location just based on his merits alone.

I admire your stance of voting with the majority of the members despite your personal feelings.

What steps are being taken to insure the vote is presented to the members in a fair and transparent manor and will the other members of the board be voting with the majority of members or each board members personal choice?