New space in K-W for arts and startups

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Photo by Marco Pedri

A new combined space for the arts and startup communities in Kitchener-Waterloo has been provided by the City of Kitchener, located on the second floor of 44 Gaukel Street.

The building formerly belonged to Everest College, before it went bankrupt, leaving the space vacant since February 2015. Currently the building is 90 per cent occupied, which occurred without any active recruiting, an obvious testament to the high need for this type of space in Kitchener-Waterloo. The Accelerator Centre, in partnership with Arts Build Ontario, will be inhabiting the building and have split the space up 50/50 in terms of square footage. The Accelerator Centre has used the new space to bring in a number of their tech startup clients who need a larger space to grow their businesses. The work being done by the clients is for hardware purposes.

“Our other facilities don’t currently have the ability to support the manufacturing component of these companies,” said Emily Jackson, director of client experience and special project at the Accelerator Centre. Jackson explained that 44 Gaukel Street is unique to their other buildings as it has concrete floors, lots of power, a loading dock, a freight elevator as well as the ability to ship and receive products—all essentials to their startup clients.

“There isn’t another flexible space where companies can come in and grow, which is very important. We did this out of a need across the region—there really isn’t something else that exists,” said Jackson.

A total of six companies reside in the new building, with a capacity for three to four more. The Accelerator Centre plans to actively recruit in the upcoming months to fill the few vacant spots.

In the other half of the building, Arts Build Ontario has incorporated a number of administrative offices as well as rehearsal spaces for various arts groups. Lindsay Gold, executive director of Arts Build Ontario explained that at the beginning of 2016, Arts Build Ontario began to work on a study which focused on the amount of performing arts spaces in Kitchener.

“There was definitely a need for rehearsal space that was expressed and the need for affordable rehearsal space was top of mind when these conversations started,” said Gold. Arts Build Ontario felt they weren’t the only organization lacking in private administrative offices and rehearsal space. When they opened their new building up to other organizations, the response was positive. Both parties feel that bringing the arts community and the tech community together into a combined working space will present a unique atmosphere.

“We think there will be some potential overlap in terms of the startups looking for arts organizations, but also for our arts organizations looking to the startups to see what synergies there might be,” said Gold.

“I think that these are two really interesting sectors to put together. And so far, so good, it’s been really great,” Jackson said.

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