From THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT By TREVOR METCALFE
A Hampton Roads community workshop that bills itself as the place to make anything from pinewood derby cars and out-of-production vehicle parts to drones is opening a second location on the Peninsula.
Norfolk-based 757 Makerspace will expand to Fort Monroe with an opening ceremony slated for April 1. The business had received a $100,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to build upon the organization’s established success, founder Beau Turner said.
“Every week, we invest in more tools, more knowledge, more training,” Turner said.
He described the Makerspace as a place where inventors and entrepreneurs can build just about anything. The concept grew from Turner pitching the idea at a local startup fair more than eight years ago.
Beyond traditional woodworking and metalworking, members have constructed items such as discontinued car parts for an old Porsche. Justin Selfridge, who is one of the Hampton spot’s first anchor tenants, has used its tools to construct prototypes of an experimental drone aircraft powered by solar energy.
The Hampton location’s 13,000-square-foot building at 16 Murray St. in Fort Monroe is close to Oozlefinch Beers & Blending and the Firehouse Coffee 1881 cafe. Since the Army left Fort Monroe in 2011, leaders have been slowly redeveloping properties there, including historic sites for a variety of uses.
Before the Hampton location, Turner said some Makerspace members were traveling hundreds of miles, including as far north as Northern Virginia and Maryland and as far south as South Carolina, to use the Norfolk facility. Having the Peninsula location eases commute times.
When he was working in Norfolk, Selfridge said commutes could sometimes take 1½ hours depending on bridge-tunnel traffic. The Hampton location cuts the commute time to about 12 minutes.
The $100,000 Makerspace grant came from an October round of more than $4.4 million in grants for 33 Virginia projects that former Gov. Ralph Northam had announced. The grant also allows students in Hampton Public Schools’ vocational and technical programs to access Makerspace resources and activities.
“This is about renovating old buildings, investing in neighborhoods, and launching new businesses,” Northam said in the announcement.
Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, firstname.lastname@example.org