A Makerspace brings together creativity, community and commerce. The outcome is an increased sense of belonging, a rise in the incubation of new business models and innovation, and an economic uptick for the geographic area. In my experience, the starting point is always one of these three :


This is typically driven by a Real Estate Developer's desire to increase the value of holdings, but can also be a Corporation or City that has vacant or underutilized property. For this to work, the gating factor is an ability to facilitate interaction between developers, corporations, start-ups, interim use and government agencies. This is top-down.

Pent up demand for space

In an overlap with hackers, tinkerers, and garage r&d, demand can be driven from individuals and loosely knit groups that need space to come together to accomplish their goals. A makerspace has achieved the goal when these pent up demands are met, the property values soar and the economic initiatives put real money in people's pockets. This is grassroots - up.

Economic Initiative: City or Corp or NP

In this starting point are included Corporations and Cities. Both have economic goals that see a Makerspace as a way to pivot away from static or a downturn in financial growth. Cities translate this to efforts against unemployment and towards the increase of entrepreneurial endeavors to build their economy and city brand. Corporations recognize the need to increase their innovation initiatives to capture new market revenue. The similarity is that both Corporations and Cities recognize Makerspaces as Placemaking which rejuvenates liveliness, modernizes the culture, increases pride & attractiveness all while on the path to increase the speed of economic growth.

I am honored that the US State Dept flew me to Sri Lanka, Corporations like Nissan centralized years of incremental R&D in a Makerspace I developed and Non-profits that are driven by socially responsible goals including those focused on education initiatives like the Stuart Foundation bring me in to provide leadership. So many are putting attention on knowledge transfer and localization through the benefits of Makerspaces and Placemaking.

1. Creative placemaking for makerspaces

How does a property become a place?

  • Guiding concepts: A big vision that offers aspirational hope with practical cues.
  • Community principles: inclusive, generous and productive
  • Quantifiables: Structure, access, activities and comfort -both physical & emotional comfort

2. There is a unifying force in a place that is built to serve.

The place serves the community, and the community passionately engages, with a sense of pride, to serve the place. In this way, the commercial sustainability increases and becomes robust. Each element of the place is a word in an unspoken language that states who we are or who we intend to be. Designed into the place and the space around it is the value of inspirational and synchronistic encounters, which provide a sense of destiny, and even magic.

3. Time off

The bench near the water cooler and the coffee maker near the couch become destinations where ideas are freely incubated and creativity, community and commerce come together. It is in the time marked “off” while taking a so-called break, when the senses are all “on” and there is a no-fail play of engagement, when innovation emerges as practical, needed and even urgent.

4. How does successful placemaking happen?

By listening to the intentions of the structural intersections and equations seen in property characteristics, experiencing the existing or lack of commercial and occupant flow in and around the property and tuning in to the emerging trends for the local demographic, against prevailing national and global trends. Listening and watching, connecting the dots, that’s how a concept emerges that is welcomed and loved.

5. Polls? Nope. Surveys? Never.

In the process of formally answering questions, the truth becomes illusive. The “what if” in the asking blocks the knowledge of the moment that is so critical to learning what needs to happen next. So, if focus groups or surveys are used, the outcomes are driven by the survey providers – never truly a benchmark of those giving the replies. It can’t be, because surveys are rational by nature, and all decisions are emotional. So, make available a wall for wishes, and offer white board pens for suggestions; but no formal surveys, please.

6. Action

So a property becomes a place when there is a location, it is studied, there is a thoughtful observation of the community’s needs, and there is service to a greater good that intersects with a sustainable commercial outcome. That’s it.

7. Concept

The concept is the galvanizing force. The concept must be big enough to inspire action across all the constituents who can stop or ensure its success. The team must be able to serve the greater good, from architects to greeters to artists. Leaders must be on the lookout to redirect any ego-driven goals so that the hands-on, paid personnel actions are in equal parts paid and community volunteer actions. Paid people serve as mentors and show their dedication for the community place through their enthusiasm and actions. Potential mentors and volunteers cannot be part of the team if they are not committed to the community good, first and foremost. Why? Because it is the volunteer engagement that makes it a place, not the top-down delivery. We deliver the placemaking out of service to the community.

8. Success

The indicators for success are not what is paid to be done, but what is volunteered. Do people show up? Do they call out their love and enjoyment of the place? Do they bring their friends, and show their pride to their coworkers? Do they show up on social media, and refer their most powerful friends to become clients alongside us, and share in the success story as it unfolds? Is there a quickening of desire, and knowledge that this is the best place to be, and we are blessed? That’s the measure of success in placemaking.

By being open to the opportunities offered by a property’s characteristics, experiencing the existing or potential flow of commerce and residents in and around the property, you can make a difference. Tune in to the emerging trends, and know the local demographics as well as the prevailing national and global trends. Offer what is needed, and what will be needed. that’s how a concept emerges that is welcomed and loved.