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NextFab is closing its South Philly location to prioritize its artisan base

It'll stay open through December, after which all members will maintain access to the studio space in North Philadelphia.

Makers at NextFab's North Philly space. (Courtesy NextFab)

A once widespread makerspace will soon only have one location in Philadelphia.

NextFab will close its South Philly outpost and consolidate resources into North Philly to better serve the artists and community in that neighborhood, director of marketing Rebecca Ledbetter told Technical.ly.

Over the years, NextFab has operated several hubs across the region. A space in Wilmington closed last year.

“After the pandemic and seeing the need and what the market needed, we realized that two larger Philadelphia locations just wasn’t as needed,” Ledbetter said. “We thought we could serve a better maker-entrepreneur community by combining into one big location.”

The North Philly space won out because of the partnerships with local businesses like Keystone Bikes and second-hand supply store Resource Exchange, she said, as well as the opportunities for educational programming.

The building’s modular layout is ideal for working on big projects, Ledbetter added, and it’s equipped with jewelry and textile spaces that aren’t offered at the other location. Another plus: There’s a parking lot. It’s also in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, so it can take advantage of the tax breaks offered by the government program that incentivizes development in under-resourced areas.

NextFab plans to expand the number of private studio and office spaces at the North Philly location, according to Ledbetter.

A 15-year history across several location

NextFab has 600 members, but the demographic varies depending on location.

The Kensington and Fishtown neighborhoods are home to a large community of artisans, creatives and hobbyists, and the North Philly space is built to serve them. The South Philly location, by contrast, serves a more tech- and hardware-focused community, which NextFab is now is pivoting away from,

We’re just really excited to serve more of a making community … filling up our studio spaces, filling up the all the shops with a lot of ideas and dreams, and turning those into products.Rebecca Ledbetter NextFab

South Philly patrons still have plenty of time to use their space, as it will not close until Dec. 27.

Founded in 2009 by Evan Malone, an entrepreneur with a PhD in mechanical engineering, NextFab started at the University City Science Center. Four years later, it relocated to the much larger South Philly location at 2025 Washington Ave. It first established a North Philadelphia hub in 2014, oipening at 1227 N. 4th St. That location closed in 2020, relocating to 1800 N. American St. — which will continue operating for the foreseeable future.

NextFab also opened a Wilmington location in 2017. It shuttered early last year after economic struggles due to the pandemic.

Building out the North Philly location, and finishing strong in South Philly

Over the years, NextFab has supported the local entrepreneurship community through its Artisan Accelerator and RAPID Hardware Accelerator. Both accelerators provide business education and resources to makers and artisans looking to step up their businesses and sell what they make.

NextFab plans to host some social events and educational opportunities at its South Philly location throughout the rest of the year to continue supporting its membership base there. Some of the equipment from the South Philly location will be moving to the north location.

“We’re just really excited to serve more of a making community, [with] more educational programming out of that location,” Ledbetter said. She expects to “be able to funnel more entrepreneurs out of that location — filling up our studio spaces, filling up the all the shops with a lot of ideas and dreams, and turning those into products.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: NextFab

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