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Lowell Collaborative Workspaces Expand Thanks to Transformative Development Initiative Grants

August 5, 2015


Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2086 & 617-448-9077 (cell)

John Noto, Lowell Makes, 978-251-4554

Diana Jaye Coluntino, New Vestures, 617-697-9560

As part of its Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Cowork Program, MassDevelopment has awarded $312,000 in grants to two community makerspaces in downtown Lowell. The $162,000 grant to Lowell Makes will help the nonprofit makerspace expand its workshop up to the first floor of Lee Street, developing new spaces for retail, workstations, precision measuring tools, and 3D printing. The expansion will also create the Merrimack Valley Center for Industry & Art, which will offer classes in foundational math and computer skills, drafting, 3D modeling, and manufacturing software. Lowell Makes houses three businesses, all involving several members. Members companies include Eeldrytch Leather, GiveWave Studios and Random Wire Technology.  

MassDevelopment also provided a $150,000 grant to New Vestures, a fashion and textile arts makerspace and incubator. The organization is using grant funds to move into the vibrant Mill No. 5 development in the heart of Lowell’s Jackson/Appleton/Middlesex (JAM) district. The Mill No. 5 space gives New Vestures 50 percent more space for a total of 3,000 square feet. The move also clusters New Vestures with other creative and innovation organizations in Lowell, including UML Innovation Hub, while keeping the makerspace close to textile-related nonprofits such as the American Textile History Museum, Tsongas Industrial History Center, Lowell Makes, and the New England Quilt Museum. 

“The Merrimack Valley continues to attract creative, collaborative entrepreneurs, and Lowell Makes provides ample resources for artists, engineers, makers, and thinkers,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “MassDevelopment grants through TDI Cowork help expand the growing shared economy. We’re pleased to work with Lowell Makes, New Vestures, and other collaborative workspaces to spur the innovation economy in Gateway Cities.” 

“Lowell Makes stands at Lowell’s nexus of art and education, and we’re thrilled this grant will help us further capitalize on that position,” said Lowell Makes co-founder John Noto. “When Kamal, Eric, and I founded this makerspace, we hoped local entrepreneurs would see the many opportunities that exist in community workspaces. I know Kamal would have enjoyed seeing the many more creative minds that will come through Lowell Makes thanks to these funds. We look forward to building on our great foundation in downtown Lowell.”

“New Vestures is honored and thrilled to have been chosen for a TDI award,” said New Vestures Founder/Director Diana Jaye Coluntino. “As a makerspace/incubator specializing in fashion/textile innovation, New Vestures is delighted to be located in Lowell, the home of the industrial revolution. In that spirit, we are committed to re-igniting that revolution by inspiring changes in the way we manufacture and consume apparel and textile products. New Vestures is committed to providing designers, makers, learners and entrepreneurs with affordable space and resources. Our goal is to grow and educate a community of designers, innovators and entrepreneurs who believe that creative, sustainable design and manufacturing practices will improve lives and better the world.” 

In December, the Commonwealth and MassDevelopment announced a fit-out award of $150,000 to Groundwork! in New Bedford, which is under construction. MassDevelopment also provided seed grants of up to $5,000 to help the startup feasibility of the following collaborative workspace projects:

  • Gateway City Arts, Holyoke
  • Cowork Springfield, Springfield
  • Shire City Sanctuary, Pittsfield
  • Springfield Innovation Café, Springfield
  • E for All, Lawrence
  • Quincy Innovation Center, Quincy

In the initial year of the program, TDI provided resources for all Gateway Cities with Cowork grants for innovative collaborative workspaces, and small Placemaking grants of $1,000 to $10,000 for small-scale projects supportive of district visions to help build community identity while supporting improvement of public spaces—such as pocket parks, pop-up stores, community gardens, and farmers’ markets. In 2013, MassDevelopment commissioned and released a report on makerspaces that includes an inventory of the industry. 

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2014, MassDevelopment financed or managed 314 projects generating investment of more than $2.9 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create more than 6,300 jobs and build or rehabilitate more than 1,600 residential units.