Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Open Works: Making things behind open doors

Tuesday one of the nations 10 largest "Maker Spaces" opened in Baltimore on Greenmount Avenue, its name: Open Works. Baltimore's movers and shakers were assembled to sing the praises of a new age of making in Baltimore.
Open Works (Photo: ArchPlan. Inc.)

Open Works is a 34,000 SF non-profit that provides "access to tools and technology and knowledge" said Will Holman, General Manager in a presentation about the project the evening before the ribbon cutting. Open Works is a project of The Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO), a non-profit real estate development corporation focused on neighborhood revitalization and economic development in Baltimore City. BARCO Executive Director Mac MacLure, noted that Holman managed to write a book and get this project completed all since he was hired. "There is no end to where he is going to go I just hope he does it here", MacLure said. He dedicated the building to the founder of the Robert Deutsch Foundation which contributed heavily to the project and is active all across Station North.
Ribbon cutting with Mayor Rawlings Blake (left) and
School CEO Santelises

Open Works sits at the intersection of the Greenmount Avenue revitalization project long spearheaded by Baltimore Housing and Commissioner Graziano and the eastern edge of the Station North Arts District as an example that development and investment is not limited to downtown and the waterfront. Congressman Cummings who spoke briefly at the opening put his hopes this way:
[this project was helped] "bya leadership whose souls are fed by making a difference in others peoples' live" [....]So often people of the community are expect to remain on the outside looking in. This is different. [...] Our diversity is not our problem it is our promise"
Anybody in the community can use meetings spaces and the future Greenmount Coffee Lab, an offspring of the Red Emma co-op known for its bookstore cafe on North Avenue. To use the machines and tools, it takes a membership which is neatly tiered by floor or it can be obtained as an all inclusive package. Monthly member fees are $90 for the use of the downstairs facilities, $70 for the upstairs facilities and $125 for the full package. Day passes are available for $25. As a unique feature Open Works will also offer 140 micro studios "as a place to land" or set up shop for a while.
Holman shows the work spaces to a group
of attendees of the BMC talk series
what's on tap (Photo: ArchPlan. Inc.)

The facility is located in the old railroad parcel building with two heavy duty levels, the upper is the "clean floor" (no dirty hands), the lower floor has real manufacturing and production with old fashioned and with modern machinery. The area at Greenmount is near Jubilee's City Arts project, a corner that Charlie Duff of Jubilee once had called "the corner of life an death", a double entendre on the adjacent Greenmount cemetery and how run-down and dangerous the area was before the new projects which also include the Lillian Jones affordable housing project south of Open Works.

Beautifully rehabilitated by architects Cho Benn Holback Open Works has its ribbon cutting at a time when one can talk about a manufacturing renaissance that is beginning to take shape in Baltimore and across the continent. Baltimore with its rich industrial history is a great place to bring back crowd sourced manufacturing, 3-D printing and the workforce training on machines whose older versions have been common in the very same area with the Crown Cork and Seal company and the clothing manufacturer Lebow. 
Open Works Funding Sources

How manufacturing can be re-imagined and reinvented was illustrated during a talk organized by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council that took place at Open Works on Monday and provided a sneak preview of the facility and a talk by David Woessner about Local Motors

David describes himself on LinkedIn this way: Business leader and entrepreneur. Automotive industry influencer and disruptor. Trusted advisor and servant to public and private executives and leaders. Resident and advocate for the City of Detroit. Child of Germany and great supporter of all things German Soccer.

David was full of start-up and tech lingo combined with a good dose of energy and optimism. "A better world through hardware". Local Motors is not a Baltimore company which may be a good thing, because two companies with such an over-sized ego may not have enough room here.
"We are innovators and manufacturers" and "we will be to open source hardware what Linux was to open source software" he stated, production somewhere at the "sweet-spot between mass production and prototype".
Local Cars General Manager David Woessner
at Open Works

"Car making is one of the most complex systems", David explained with somewhere around 25,000 components per vehicle. "If we can disrupt that we can disrupt everything." Local Motors created the first 3-D printed car, it had a mere 50 components. "Co-creation", David called the process in which ideas are collected via crow-sourcing. The company has a presence with a demonstration space at National Harbor, a 50,000 sf plant in Knoxville, another plant in Berlin, Gremany and headquarters in Phoenix, AZ.

The company's goal is 'rapid integration of technology". Instead of the typical 5 years from concept to vehicle Local Motors wants to reduce it to six months. "No dealers, factory direct."

He says in the new model one wouldn't necessarily buy a car but subscribe to it like in the I-phone model with a service provider, updates and no long-term ownership.
The company has produced a number of vehicles including a military exploration vehicle, a road safe race car and an autonomous mini bus named Olli. A pizza delivery vehicle is already in circulation: Production: 100 cars.

Holman is very cautious about the hoopla around makerspaces across the US (There are 300 such spaces nationwide by Holman's count) and the possibility that 3-D printing could be a manufacturing revolution in the making. His focus is on community access and training. At the ribbon cutting a $75,000 check was presented by T Rowe Price, PNC and Telesis, a developer instrumental in turning around the communities along the Greenmount Avenue corridor. Holman has talked with Damian Costa of Sagamore, the other big (for-profit) makerspace in Port Covington. He is cautiously hopeful about the possibility that his space could be supported through the new workforce training funds that are part of the TIF deal or that OpenWerks could become a pipeline to the jobs offered by Under Armour and others in advanced manufacturing. 
Olli, the Local Cars mini-bus prototype

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

corrections: 
The BARCO speaker was originally identified as Neil Didrikson. Didrikson was home sick, the speaker was Mac MacLure, Executive Director of BARCO. The Red Emma coffee shop in the facility will be called Greenmount Coffee Lab, not Red Coffee. The parcel building was a function of the railroad, not the post office.
Mayor Rawlings Blake, BDC CEO Bill Cole and Congressman Cunmmings at Open Works

Ex MICA  President Fred Lazarus and new President Samuel Hoi

Elijah Cummings: Our diversity is not our problem it is our promise"

BARCO  Executive Director MacLure

Rendering of the project designed by Cho Benn, Holback Architects