Making a makerspace on Hamilton Hill

Electric City Barn will be a place to make things and build relationships
Project Manager Jennica Huff, left, and Kristen Holler, director of the Albany Barn, at the former St. Columba's School.
Project Manager Jennica Huff, left, and Kristen Holler, director of the Albany Barn, at the former St. Columba's School.

The harsh sounds of drilling and hammering fill the former St. Columba’s School on Craig Street. 

The construction is temporary of course, making way for Hillside View Apartments. But the sounds of drilling and hammering are going to be permanent, with the addition of Electric City Barn, a makerspace.
Plans for the makerspace were presented to the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association during their meeting earlier this month. 

“A lot of people were wondering about it because no one really knew how it [was] going to work,” said Marva Isaacs, the president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association.

“It sounds very interesting,” Isaacs said. 

The makerspace will be on the first floor of the Hillside View Apartments at 400 Craig St.

It’s slated to include a woodworking space, digital media space and a textile and fashion design and production space. Holler hopes that space will enable members of the Hamilton Hill community and resident makers to come together to share tools, design ideas, and knowledge. 

“Pursuing the makerspace idea is a great way to add to the residences and the services that will be available,” said Kristen Holler, the director of the Albany Barn, Inc. Over the past year, she’s worked with The Community Builders, a non-profit real estate development company developing the Hillside project, to create the Electric City Barn. 

The Hillside project is a major development in a community that hasn’t seen a lot of growth in the last few years. It’s a project that creates housing for seniors, veterans, and families with a range of incomes. The apartments will also have community rooms, a computer lab and a common kitchenette. Various services from the Schenectady Community Action Program will be available on site as well. The project is on track to be completed by May of 2018. 

Although it operates separately from the apartments, the makerspace pumps an added element of creativity into the area and Holler hopes it will become a community hub.

Local woodworkers, crafters, coders, and ‘makers’ can come to help train others who want to learn or to just work on projects of their own. Isaacs thinks it might be a relief for parents and kids as well. 

“At least [it will] give the kids something to do in the evenings,” Isaacs said, which will be a relief for both parents and kids.

Students, after a bit of basic training on how to use the space, would be able to spend a few hours after school at Electric City Barn painting, to designing clothes, woodworking, etc. 

According to Isaacs, most people in the neighborhood are curious and excited about the makerspace. But many are mostly concerned with how the Barn could be used for job assistance. 

“One thing that we can offer through the makerspace is opportunities for job training and career advancement,” said Jennica Petrik-Huff, the project manager for the Hillside project.

It’s one of the first things that community members have told her time and time again they’re lacking.  

“I would like to see how much progress it would make,” Isaacks said.

With the makerspace, community members can learn how to code, use 3D printing technology, and develop metalworking skills. They can also use the space for other creative projects like fashion or graphic designing. 

While membership cost is still being configured, Holler said there will be price points for different levels of access, so people can pay only what they’re going to use. 

“We will offer a sliding scale based on income and/or opportunities to trade volunteer hours for membership/access so we can eliminate financial barriers to accessing the maker space,” Holler said. 

She’s in the early stages of working out a system with the Schenectady County Public Library where passes to the makerspace would be available for checkout.

There are also plans to have a neighborhood office for the Schenectady police department next to the makerspace. According to Petrik-Huff, the idea was brought up by the neighborhood association in the hopes that kids and teens would see the police in a different environment and possibly get to know one another. 

It helps to ensure that the Electric City Barn won’t just be a place to make things, but to make relationships. That’s something the neighborhood can get behind.  

Categories: Life and Arts

Leave a Reply