Most fab news of the week: NextFab — the membership-based, high-tech makerspace in Philadelphia — is coming to downtown Wilmington.
The expansion will be made possible by a $350,000 Delaware Strategic Fund grant that the Council on Development Finance recently approved. Plans are in motion to open a 3,500-square-foot facility in Wilmington’s Creative District in the first six months of 2016, according to a release from the Delaware Economic Development Office.
The Creative District, instigated by the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation (WRC), is the area between Fourth, Ninth, Market and Washington streets. The WRC aims to revitalize the area, with the hope of a rippling effect in Wilmington, by fostering creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and affordable housing.
Carrie Gray, managing director of the WRC, said the expansion is a coup for the area.
“NextFab’s makerspace will be the first of its kind in Wilmington and represents an integral next step for the Creative District,” she said in the release, adding that it will enhance the community with its blend of arts and technology.
Evan Malone founded NextFab in 2009, and two spaces now operate in Philadelphia with state-of-the-art equipment, software, training and consultants available to its 650-plus members. He said he’s excited to work with folks in Delaware to make the new makerspace a success and attract makers of all kinds — especially those who want to do more than simply tinker in their garages — to the Wilmington location.
“Start It Up Delaware, coIN Loft, 1313 Innovation are full of people who’ve been very friendly with us, very friendly and welcoming,” Malone said. He said he’d like to partner with Delaware’s big maker group, Barrel of Makers, saying he’s interested in local makers from the group teaching at the new NextFab in exchange for membership.
“We think it could be an exciting partnership,” Barrel of Makers President Jessi Taylor said in an email, adding that the finer details of such an agreement haven’t been discussed yet.
Malone also said he’s been in the beginning stages of talks with local colleges and universities — including DelTech, Wilmington University and the Horn Program at the University of Delaware — about possible opportunities for students at the makerspace.
“It’s a great community, and we love to be a part of great communities,” he said, “especially ones focused on elevating Wilmington.”