Space for a Space

So here’s a somewhat verbose update on where we are with regards to actually getting HackSpace into a space. It’s getting cross-posted on both the website and mailing list. And its tl;dr’d at the bottom -badly. As I can’t come up with a funny logo for the post, I link to today XKCD as it struck me as somewhat relevant (in a “get on with it” sort of way)…

Think the Life of Brian "Get on with it!"

But First

A quick apology. As a few of you are aware (mostly the ones who idle on IRC or made it to the last meeting) there’s been quite a bit of behinds the scenes activity recently regarding moving forward.  I should have done a better job of keeping everyone up to date than I have been; I’m sorry bits have been coming out in dribs and drabs. The only excuse I can give is that I didn’t want to start making bold public announcements before we knew anything concrete; I really don’t want to get peoples hopes up if there’s a chance of them being crashed again.

Continue reading for exciting updates (there’s a graph and everything) !

So that was that…

Our last big announcement was our intention to move into “the Big Space” on Mabgate. This was massively spacious, reasonably priced, located close to town and even had a roller shutter door so the potential for playing with some cars (never-mind motorbikes) would have been a possibility. Sadly, the more we planned to move in, the more and more obvious it became that we couldn’t actually afford it.

Whilst massive and industrial, it’s annoyingly massive and industrial. Whilst perfect for its current storage roll, if we were to colonize it, then it would need some basics to make it habitable; nothing serious, just a lick of paint and completely refitting with electrics. And the toilet being properly built, oh, and a kitchen building. And an office; that’s the thing, it’s one big open space, so we’d have to box off, build, floor, wall, ceiling and carpet (and insulate) somewhere to use as office space so we could just use a desk.

Which, I have to say, we were willing to do; certainly we investigated doing and then we were properly freaked out. It certainly needed painting (and most would probably need two coats). With about 315m-sq of brick wall and paint running at stupid prices, this alone would be enough to skint us, never mind the need for electrics (we had a conservative estimate of £200 to get a single ring-main in there and even then we weren’t sure the meter tails were up to anything past its current lighting use) and the fact we’d be attempting to heat an 800 cubic meter chasm meant that we really couldn’t afford it at the moment. I would say for the record though, if we end up with membership blossoming then I wouldn’t be upset to find us housed there in a couple of years.

Having played the numbers every which way, we came to the conclusion it wasn’t viable and we contacted its landlord to see if he had anything smaller or more suitable for moving into without having to do it up. Paul was friendly and helpful as ever and there was some office space on the same campus we went to have a look at. Sadly when we got there, the roof had started (seriously) leaking the night before and that too got crossed off the list. Paul did have some other spaces, but they were all too far out of town/off the beaten route to be viable either, so for the moment we’re going to have to pass with them, I think.

-Also I want to take a quick moment and publicly thank Paul (Bridge Estates) for all his help with finding us somewhere. As I say he’s friendly and seems to be a very understanding landlord, I think we would have enjoyed renting from him and I certainly wouldn’t want to put anyone else off -if you’re looking for big storage or industrial (and have a bigger budget than us) then it’s ace.

But suddenly a wild Mill Building appeared…

Feeling dejected due to the lack of roof (though probably not feeling it as bad as Paul), Mick and I caffeinated ourselves and in the process noticed a sign advertising everything from storage to studios at Mabgate Mills. Now Mabgate Mills was looked at by some members a while ago and discounted for various reasons, but we figured a phone call wouldn’t hurt.

The very quickly arranged to see us, so after downing my second free refill of coffee (thank you Mabgate Cafe) we set across the road to meet the most fantastic Ms Candy Waller.

She showed us around a number of absolutely lovely spaces (some of them well out of our current budget, but certainly somewhere I’d like to move up-to) and after wowing us completely we found a couple we could actually afford.

Now, whatever happens with Mabgate Mills, we owe them a massive debt of thanks. She pointed us to the fact that whilst business rates weren’t included, the rateable value of the space was below a threshold and we would qualify for a rates reduction from the Council. A 100% rates reduction as it goes, so even if we don’t rent with her, she’s likely saved us a fair chunk over the next year. I am massively thankful.

Mill 1, Second (floor) Studio B

Studio B at Mabgate Mills (and you’re gonna have to take my word for this) is located on the second floor of Mill 1. There’s a staircase and a sturdy (but narrow doored) goods lift from a communal entrance and then it’s the second door along a corridor. There’s a trouser makers next door.

Double doors open sideways onto a long room with a (double walled/doored) toilet and fire escape door at the far end to the right, next to a food sink and a small counter top. There’s windows opposite the door that cover the outer wall looking down into the courtyard. Its gets the afternoon sun and is nicely warm. To the left there is a small hallway with a small and slightly larger office just off it.

==> There’s an official brochure here and Mick took photos of me scratching my nose in various location as well. In total its about 700’sq. It’s here in map form (along with other relevant places) :)

Can we afford it?

[[Finance wise it’s affordable. hopefully Mick is going to write something here explaining it when I send him the draft… otherwise this bit makes no sense. Craig having one of the rooms gets to go in here.]] -as penance I made myself write the financial bit. Hopefully it makes an amount of sense. Look! A wild graph!

The short answer is just about, without getting into debt again.

Running costs are about £558 for rent, internet & phone, an electric allowance and insurance. They’ve dropped the lease to 6 (rather than 12) months but require 3 months up front. With what we have in the bank and the current committed (although not all currently paying) members and assuming we get an extra member every month for 9 months then we dip very low in month 8 and then start to make a profit.

 

Graph showing our bank balence dropping very low...

the X axis is weeks current -> 15 in the future. The big hit at the start is the bond and first month's rent. The middle month drops the bank balance to about £50. This doesn't take into account things like tuck-shop or if we need to go out and buy chairs, etc...

 

So it’s hairy, but doable. Except it’s not doable because we don’t have enough paying members to start with. So we’ve been given an out. Bruce’s start-up needs some space and we would have two office rooms. We also desperately need more paying members and Bruce is willing to (essentially) make up over 4 of them.

So Bruce would get the small office, and we’d get more funding and a 3D printer on site… it seems hard to argue with :)

The GOOD:

  • It’s painted, clean, has carpet tiles and is ready to move into.

  • We could literally takes our desks, line them against the wall, run some extension leads and be set up ready to go.

  • The windows are big, so lots of natural light.

  • Even though there’s no heating it’s been warm on the couple of times we’ve visited. Also it’s not madly large so an electric radiator might actually work :)

  • We’ve been offered it on a 6th month contract rather than 12 & if we have a sudden upsurge of members we can move somewhere bigger within the mill complex before then (Mill 6 is twice the space but twice the price, it’d be a good step up).

  • Whilst they’re not thrilled with welding, they’re more than happy for us to solder and such.

  • When asking if we could put shelving up, we were told that (as long as we check first) it was not a problem. In fact the handyman working there suggested we could take a wall down if we liked o_0.

  • The other offices in Mabgate appear to have a creative streak, well at least from the brochure, so we may find extra members.

  • Angus can fit his bike in the lift

The BAD:

  • Shared entrance

  • No “Dirty room”

  • Not central enough for phoenix…

  • Angus can fit his bike in the lift

The UGLY?:

  • Well, I for one rather like that green wall…

The Summary

Overall, it’s a nice space run by friendly landlords. They’re easy going with the restrictions that’d be in place and yet it’s a clean/safe building. In my mind it’s a fantastic mix.

We don’t have our own entrance, but at the last place we were reliant on key-holders anyway. Members can actually get in rather easily as the mill is “open” during the day.

The main criticism would be that it’s more office space rather than workshop. I really want a dirty room too, but Geek space seems more important (and harder to create) than Workshop space. We’re currently thinking of turning the larger office into a dirty room, but frankly the best way would be more members and moving to a larger unit ;)

After another round of caffeine (and an amount of mints) it was less than a 10 minute walk to Maplin and then onto Leeds market / the bus station where I left Craig and our newest (and youngest) member.

It’s not a pub…

Walking back to Mabgate from the Bus Station (literally, not 5 minutes) I had a quick explore of the area and came across Mabgate Green (which isn’t; it’s actually a somewhat enclosed road). It turns out that the ground floor of this bit of building is the new home of The Pedallers Arms; a bike co-op that share tools and knowledge and teach and empower people to fix their own bikes.

It’s a good group and I stuck it on my mental list. There was also a for rent sign up but I thought no more of it; we were going to the mills.

And then we IRC’d some members…

Which went extremely well, most people seemed to get behind it. The only big problems raised was the possible lack of space (yeah, I’d love our dream space now, but we can easily move bigger when we have more members to afford it) but mostly the fact its “office space” rather than “workshop space” which defeats the point for some people.

Without space the Space is falling apart, and we need to get a club-house and crack on. Once we’re established again then we can go on to bigger and better things, rather than trying to jump straight in at the deep end.

Essentially we “took it under advisement” but felt that getting us some space that we can use is the over-riding goal. I agreed with wanting a dirty room, but honestly felt that it was of a lower priority.

The member who raised the issue had to go back to work and ironically at that point we realised that rather than a store, we could use the larger office as a dirty room which seems to make sense.

And then I learnt the value of a workshop in the rain.

Which was bad, as I found myself in the garden sanding down a skateboard. Sure the paper liked the rain but the electric sander it was strapped to objected horribly… and I suddenly felt the desperate need for a “dirty room”… something more industrial would be really good… so whilst chatting to Bruce on IRC, I looked at The Pedallers’ website and started admiring their workshop space.

And then gave them a bell, only to find Jess at the other end of the phone (who’s involved in a load of community projects and was with HackSpace 1.x). So I went down and had a look.

The Pedallers Arms

I jumped in the car and ran down there. Its on the other end of Mabgate, even closer to town. The Pedallers’ have the downstairs (green box on the map) part of the building and they’ve fitted it out nicely.

There’s a shared entrance through a door on the street and they have a locked door behind that. The stairs go up the left and the office space available for rent is at the top, above the Pedallers’ workshop. I couldn’t get in as it was locked, but they pointed out it was more office-like than the downstairs though on the downside, it apparently doesn’t have heating and I don’t know how warm it gets.

As well as the office space upstairs, there’s a big open area (maybe 1500’sq -in grey) which would be good for workshop stuff, though has a couple of issues. There has to be access through it, as the only shared toilet is up here, and the downstairs is used for car parking during the day, so, that could be interesting as the downstairs roller shutter has a cut-out section around it. It’s quite open.

On the far end of the building (in red) there’s a sectioned off area of about 1000’sq. It’d make a lovely workshop, from the gap in the door, though I couldn’t see in there properly.

Jess also pointed out that the Pedallers wouldn’t be averse to sharing internet and possibly even PLI as well. They also don’t have room to have their pillar drill set up either, and wouldn’t object to it being looked after ;)

But Wait!

I have a feeling some people are going to say, “yes, yes please, industrial”. Well that just means we need to see some money in the bank, and this is not a lump sum upfront, it is continual revenue I am talking about. Yes, the Pedallers initial rent is going to be cheaper, but once we add all the real cost, it is not. Unless we can make it into a warm and friendly atmosphere we won’t get the new numbers. New members need a place to feel welcome.

It is nowhere near as daunting as the first place (that is now of the menu), and yes we can handle it, but with our main focus being to build numbers, from the swell we get and the excitement from having a new place, we cannot afford to lose momentum.

In closing

So, we can’t do anything quite yet. We’re waiting for Ms Waller to get back from holiday before we could sign on the Mill and I’ve been told I can contact the landlord who manages Mabgate Green tomorrow (Friday) morning. Hopefully we’ll be able to look round the place tomorrow as well (hopefully in the morning, will update in another thread)

If you’ve made it this far then please award yourself coffee. If you didn’t make it this far then you might already be at the pub. Also, sorry about all the stupid sub-heading titles… I’ve been watching Fraser recently.

Also, if you made it to here, then you’re about as up-to-date as anyone.

As always, questions and comments please :)

tldr:

We saw a space. We can afford it. It’s clean. On the way back I found another one and it’s more industrial.

Here’s a map with all the spaces and some local landmarks: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=215180716749573078817.0004bd7dfa54e7cfeeef2&msa=0&ll=53.801031,-1.532593&spn=0.000897,0.001436

I would use OSM but I’m after the imagery not the mapping ;)

 

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