Tucson Tech

Tucson Tech: 'Hackerspace' christens new downtown home

2013-09-03T00:00:00Z 2014-06-18T14:24:06Z Tucson Tech: 'Hackerspace' christens new downtown homeDavid Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The treasurer of the nonprofit Xerocraft Hackerspace, Jeremy Briddle, was excited about the group’s planned move into the old Steinfeld Warehouse downtown from its cramped space in South Tucson.

Until he saw the place.

The space at 101 W. Sixth St. had been unused for several years, and thieves had stripped out all of the wiring for its copper, Briddle recalled.

About six months and untold gallons of sweat later, new wiring and lighting has been installed; interior spaces have been outfitted with benches and storage space; a restroom was redone, and much of the group’s machinery has been installed — just in time for a grand-opening event this weekend.

“I was dreading all the work that needed to be done. … Now, I feel a lot better about it,” said Briddle, who was installing slat board for tool storage during a recent evening work session.

Like other places known as hackerspaces or makerspaces, the nonprofit Xerocraft provides the space, equipment, training and collaborative support to so-called “hackers” or “makers” — terms for people who adapt existing technologies to new uses — or those who want to gain new skills, learn about new technologies or perhaps perfect an invention.

“I just like to build things — I was considering becoming an architect or an engineer,” said Briddle, 31, who works as a sound engineer for a local TV station.

Xerocraft is part of the recently formed Downtown Innovation District, which also includes Maker House, an artisan-focused cooperative makerspace just across the block from Xerocraft, along with the Gangplank Tucson, the Toole Avenue Hive and soon-to-open Connect co-workspaces.

Xerocraft recently achieved 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and raised more than $6,000 from a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which will be used to buy supplies and equipment.

Xerocraft has an array of mostly donated wood- and metalworking tools, along with equipment like a laser etcher, 3-D printers and metal-casting crucibles. The group will soon install a laser cutter and is looking to buy a special table saw that stops instantaneously when the blade comes in contact with flesh.

The group holds regular classes on subjects ranging from welding to computer coding for 3-D printing, and it now has plenty of room.

The main space is 3,300 square feet, with about 1,000 square feet of loft space for storage and other uses, Xerocraft secretary Dale Tersey said.

The good news is, Xerocraft has found a home. The bad news is, it won’t last forever.

Xerocraft is renting its space under a two-year lease from the Warehouse Arts Management Organization, which bought the property from the city for $1 in 2010 with a $250,000 payment due by 2014. The city had acquired the warehouse and other properties for a proposed extension of the Barraza-Aviation Parkway that was later dropped. The city spent nearly $1 million in grant funds to stabilize the building.

WAMO’s plan is to turn the property into a work and gallery space for artists and arts organizations as part of the Warehouse Arts District — at which point Xerocraft will need to find a new home, Tersey said.

“We’ll be going gangbusters by then, so we hope that at that point we can find more of a permanent home,” he said.

More to come

While Xerocraft is settling in, Maker House is planning an open-house art show Saturday, Sept. 14, at its new digs in the historic Bates Mansion, a stone’s throw from Xerocraft at 283 N. Stone Ave.

The for-profit venture, which also houses the artisan e-commerce website Artfire.com, recently raised nearly $54,000 in a crowdfunding campaign. For more information, see makerhouse.org.

Meanwhile, Connect Coworking (connectcoworking.com), a co-working space under development in the historic Rialto Block, recently opened a temporary office space called Connect Beta at 245 E. Congress St., Suite 171.

Connect Coworking is scheduled to open in December at 33 S. Fifth Ave.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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