Establishing a Dallas Maker Space

Introduction

The DPRG had access to a warehouse in Garland for seven years, from 2002 through 2009 thanks to Mike Dodson, who allowed us to use one of his warehouse buildings and patiently put up with all our geeky shenanigans for almost a decade. In 2009, Mike retired and the building we were in changed hands, so we lost our long time home. After looking at several options for finding a new and permanent space for working on projects, we settled on the hackerspace model (aka makerspace or a shared community workshop). This idea has been used by groups in the US and other parts of the world with great success so it seemed likely we should be able to do it too.

The theory is that you get a number of people together who are willing to pay a monthly membership fee in order to obtain 24/7 access to a shared workshop. The members also share in maintenance and renovation work. The membership fees are used to cover the costs of the space and to buy new tools and equipment. If you ever visited our old workspace in Garland, you have an idea already of what we’re talking about. You can see some photos of our old space in the DPRG Warehouse photo gallery.

We created this page to serve as a record of our progress on “project maker space” and we’ll update the page as there are new developments. If you’re interested in joining us in the planning or just want to read more, we’ll provide some links at the end of this page.

Getting Started

Ed started by looking at existing hackerspaces. Many have extensive documentation on their structure and funding schemes. He also contacted several of the hackerspaces, sending a list of questions concerning their membership structure, their business models, the problems they ran into and the solutions they found. So far, he has corresponded with these groups:

Other hackerspace groups were studied in less detail. Many of those can be found on the hackerspaces.org Hackerspace List

Steve began by collecting ideas for a list of desired qualities the new space should have. In part these were based on the DPRG’s experience with the previous location and in part on suggestions provided by members and other hackerspaces. Like the classic “good – fast – cheap” triangle, it’s unlikely any space could meet all these specifications, so we’ll have to trade off for the best combination we can find. Some of the ideal qualities for a Dallas Hackerspace are:

  • In Dallas County
  • Area that’s reasonable safe after dark
  • Near major North-South and East-West highways
  • Within walking distance of a DART rail station
  • Area where Verizon FIOS or other highspeed internet is available
  • Area zoned for use of noisy tools such as welding equipment and saws
  • Rooms suitable for meetings, lectures, and classes
  • Warehouse-like work area for larger power tools
  • Garage doors and area suitable for working on vehicle inside
  • Smaller, private meeting rooms
  • Two restrooms (men, women)
  • Kitchen and social areas
  • Heating and cooling
  • Sufficient parking
  • 220V and/or 480V power for large tools and welders

Resources We’d Like to Offer

The next step was thinking about what sort of things we’d like to have available in the ideal hackerspace. Like our list of ideal qualities, the list at this point is just a wish list of everything we think local hackers might possibly enjoy playing with. Ideas suggested so far include:

  • CNC Plasma cutter
  • CNC Laser cutter
  • CNC milling machine
  • CNC wood routing system
  • Drill press
  • Sheet metal brake
  • Metal lathe
  • Electronic test station (e.g., scopes, meters)
  • gas welding equipment
  • arc welding equipment
  • MIG welding equipment
  • TIG welding equipment
  • Highspeed Internet with dedicated hosting rack
  • Film processing/darkroom
  • Photography studio area
  • Hot air SMT rework station
  • Radio tower for Ham, repeater gear
  • Injection molding station
  • Vacuforming station
  • Audio/Video recording area
  • Kiln, ceramic working tools
  • Automotive bay with tools
  • Hydroponics experimentation room
  • Painting room, painting or powder coating hardware

Note: we’re intentionally leaving out hardware related to crafts and fashion (e.g. industrial sewing equipment, fabric silkscreening equipment) since those are already covered by our friends at the Dallas Make Shop in the Bishop Arts District. We hope to work together with the Dallas Make Shop and other local community workshops to avoid unnecessary overlap and cooperate when possible on larger scale projects.

Funding Model

In general terms, the funding of hackerspaces is fairly well understood. The space itself has associated monthly expenses (e.g. rent, insurance, net access, expendables, utilities, etc.) and there are expenses associated with the acquisition of new tools and equipment. Income is generated from membership fees, grants, and donations. The size of the income determines the size and growth rate of the hackerspace. Within that general framework are lots of minor variations and an exact model hasn’t been determined for the DPRG hackerspace yet.

The Search for Space

One of the first steps in our process is searching for space. See the section below, “How You Can Help” to find out how to help us find our space. So far, we are talking to everyone we know about the idea and asking them to talk to everyone they know. In additional general networking, we are also contacting local real estate professionals and representatives of the local Dallas non-profit community. Some of us are also engaging in manual search-by-looking-around activities in our spare time, driving through random parts of town, looking for likely clusters of unoccupied buildings and contacting building owners. We’ve also tried posting ads to local community forums.

We’re also looking into the possibility of space offerings in parts of town that have revitalization initiatives with heavily discounted lease rates, tax abatements, or other incentives. If you know of any areas like this, please let us know.

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