The ‘gym for innovators’ at Fifth and Tatnall is a significant addition to the Creative District
Lest anyone doubt that Wilmington’s Creative District is for real, the mid-June opening of NextFab, the Philadelphia-based “gym for innovators,” should be ample proof that the vision is coming to life.
Its 10,000-square-foot building at Fifth and Tatnall streets offers crafters a playground where they can transform their dreams into reality, and maybe even launch a new business.
“They have taken a corner that’s been quiet for several years and are bringing it back to life,” says Carrie Gray, managing director of the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, which has been spearheading redevelopment planning for the Creative District, an area bounded by Market, Fourth, Washington and Ninth streets.
NextFab members consist of “a mix of beginners and seasoned, knowledgeable craftspeople,” says location manager Kate Brown. “Our collaborative nature helps people develop their own ideas and see attainable goals.”
Entering the building, visitors encounter a reception desk featuring the NextFab logo designed by NextFab member Peter Brown and carved on a 3D cutter at NextFab’s main site in Philadelphia. The ground floor holds a large woodshop on one end and a laser-electronics shop on the other, with an open area suitable for small conferences in the middle. On the first and second floors are a half-dozen incubator spaces—private rooms designed for use by startup businesses—and a larger classroom area. The third floor remains open for now, available for crafters working on large projects.
NextFab’s opening raises the prospect of Tatnall Street emerging as the spine of the Creative District. The Mill, a small business coworking space, is housed in the Nemours Building six blocks to the north and Artist Ave Station studio and gallery is at the corner of Eighth and Tatnall, practically at the midpoint of the larger ventures. “This is a pretty significant presence,” Gray says.
“I think it’s great. NextFab has a lot of equipment that we can’t afford,” says Jessi Taylor, president of Wilmington’s Barrel of Makers, a community-oriented makers group whose members use the woodshop in the Highlands Art Garage, not far from Trolley Square, for some of its meetings. With its 3D cutters and laser tools, NextFab has “a level of intricacy that we don’t have,” she says.
Some Barrel of Makers participants have previously become NextFab members in Philadelphia and more will likely join to take advantage of the more convenient Wilmington location, Taylor says. She says she has been pleased with the friendly relationships that are developing between the NextFab team and members of the Delaware community.
Zach Phillips, creative director of the Short Order Production House, the video production business formerly known as The Kitchen, says he’s now scouting for space within the Creative District. In only two years, the business has already outgrown its digs in the Wilmington Train Station. “With NextFab, the Mill, and hopefully us in the Creative District soon, I think we’ve got the potential to spin out a lot of new businesses, not just one or two,” Phillips says.
NextFab Wilmington, at 501-509 Tatnall St., will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Membership rates range from $49 to $299 per month, depending on usage, with a discount equal to two monthly payments for a full-year membership. A pilot membership, covering classes only, is available for $19 a month. Members can use NextFab’s two Philadelphia sites as well as the Wilmington facility.
Class schedules will be posted on the NextFab.com.