The story of Make-It Springfield is one of a 30-day pop-up project that just never shut down. In 2016, aiming to activate an empty storefront in the heart of Springfield’s newly designated Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) District, local stakeholders partnered to create a temporary community workshop space that – two-and-a-half years later – is still going strong. Today, Make-It Springfield provides space downtown for local makers, artists, entrepreneurs, programmers, students, and enthusiasts to make, create, and share their skills and tools.
Make-It Springfield was made possible by TDI’s creative and inclusive approach to redevelopment. In a first-time collaboration, Make-It's co-founders—MassDevelopment’s TDI Fellow Laura Masulis and UMass Amherst Design Center Executive Director Michael DiPasquale—partnered with the city’s Business Improvement District and Silverbrick Lofts to rent a vacant commercial space at a deep discount. Equipped with a $10,000 grant from MassDevelopment and a $5,000 grant from UMass Amherst for materials and refreshments, the group recruited UMass faculty and students, and community members, to host hands-on workshops in technology, art, engineering, bicycle repair, cooking, and sewing. In its first 30 days, Make-It held more than 50 free public workshops and welcomed nearly 500 attendees to these events. And on day two of the pop-up, community members were already asking for the makerspace to stay.
Sustained over the years by a combination of state, nonprofit, and private sector funding, including a $25,000 CoWork Grant, Make-It Springfield has created a community of makers and artists, brought hundreds of people to the district each month, and provided an accessible front door to the diverse array of ongoing district activities and opportunities. Now, with an eye towards becoming sustainable, Make-It plans to implement an affordable membership model, hire part-time staff, establish a board of directors, and expand into a larger space in downtown Springfield.