Two Millvale residents aim to reopen the Millvale Studios building, which fire severely damaged in June 2017, as a makerspace featuring industrial equipment, an open work space and community resources.
Joe Martin and Oreen Cohen await the building’s inspection and appraisal so they can place their bid with the Millvale Community Development Corp. (MCDC), which owns the 216 North Ave. property. The partners said they received positive responses when presenting their plans to Millvale Council, and the Millvale Community Library, with whom they hope to partner on programming.
According to Tina Walker, an MCDC board member, a software company was in negotiations to purchase the building for $315,000 but the deal fell through after seven months of “due diligence,” due to rehabilitation costs and lack of parking.
“It is a fire husk,” Martin, a robotics engineer, designer, journeyman machinist and entertainment industry craftsman, said. “Everything has been ripped out after the fire. The tin ceilings have all been taken out. There’s some damage to the structure. Also, the roof needs to be replaced … they gutted a large portion of the electrical, but it was also outdated to begin with, and that was also part of the reason for the fire.”
Millvale Studios contained an art gallery, The River’s Edge internet radio station and the Millvale Yoga Collective.
The makerspace would provide basic tools and their maintenance, according to a proposal Cohen and Martin submitted to the MCDC. It would require its members’ attendance at safety and usage classes. Artists would potentially participate in a co-op arrangement, investing in and making decisions regarding the venture. Membership fees and details have yet to be determined.
A textile lab would contain industrial sewing machines and screen printing equipment.
“The front will be like a retail space but will also have the 3D printing and laser cutters and all those things,” said Cohen, a sculptor and community and arts programmer and educator, “so any of the jobs that are being sent from the makers will be sent to the front so if anybody walks in you can just watch it. So just watching these processes happen, there’s education built into that.”
“The arts in its many forms is what keeps a community thriving. The creative mind envisions what we are, what we have, what we can become and what we can share,” Walker said. “I’m thrilled that Joe and Oreen, both Millvale residents, want to reestablish the Studios, and have a dream to take the initial concept and take it to an even grander level.”
The duo is seeking investments, grants and equipment sponsors.
Cohen and Martin have discussed collaborating with the R.E.A.A.D.Y. (Redefining Education Achieving Associate Degrees for Youths) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) & Performing Arts Charter School anticipated to open for the 2020-21 school year in Millvale’s former Holy Spirit School.
“They have the support of many community members, and organizations. The R.E.A.A.D.Y STEM Performing Arts School is very excited and looking forward to working with Oreen and Joe,” Walker said.
In fact, the partners disseminated a survey via social media asking respondents for their thoughts regarding the makerspace. Within a few days, 98 percent of 106 respondents said they were in favor of the space. Daniel Kuhn and Aasta Deth, Ton Pottery co-owners, Susan McClellan, Millvale Community Library executive director, and John Hunt, general manager of the San Jose, California, TheShop.build makerspace, wrote letters expressing their support for the endeavor.
To share your Millvale makerspace ideas, donate or suggest partnerships, contact: [email protected].
Erica Cebzanov is a