A plan to turn a near-east side industrial complex into a community workshop for craftspeople and DIY entrepreneurs is taking shape. Around the corner and under the interstate from Mass Avenue’s bustling east end, the massive Circle City Industrial Complex engulfs half a million square feet.
Built in the 1920’s, the golden age of the automobile, by Louis Schwitzer, racing royalty and engineer, the factory once purred with life, fueling the local economy.
"At one point there was 1,800 people working here, these neighborhoods out here, they were really built with there being higher wage, manufacturing jobs in these areas," explained Larry Jones, owner of Teagan Development.
Jones is one of the people leading an effort to revive manufacturing here, with a DIY twist. Teagan, Riley Area Development Corp, Pattern and others have partnered to rehab 120,000 square feet of the southern portion of the industrial center into a ‘maker space’ and call it Ruckus.
The maker movement started to rev up about ten years ago with people who wanted to create instead of consume. Makers can produce anything from robots to chocolate, but in Ruckus’ case, the focus is on unique, quality, American-made goods.
Polina Osherov, executive director of fashion nonprofit Pattern, said she’s been talking to designers and other entrepreneurs about bringing the maker culture to Indy for a while.
"The conversation about having a space that caters to this group that doesn’t have a lot of money but that would potentially be able to grown into a bigger business has been going on for quite some time." Osherov said.
Truen Jaimes, creative director and co-owner of House of 5th, is one of about 50 entrepreneurs who have expressed interest in becoming members of Ruckus. Right now he’s making his artisan leather goods and accessories in an incubator space in Fountain Square.
He says Ruckus could really help his business, especially considering the unique work environment that allows him to connect with other craftspeople.
"That’s something that I look at as a designer, the logistical aspect, people don’t realize but as a designer you do everything so to have those people in close proximity, awesome," Jaimes said.
Jones said Ruckus members will have access to laser-cutters, metal working machines, sewing equipment and other tools to give them a leg-up with their start-ups.
"It’s a spot where individuals can get access to higher end equipment. The story I like to tell is that you’re always looking for that guy with the idea for one widget who can then make 100 because what we really want him to make is 1,000 and then 100,000," Jones said.
It will also provide business people with studios and workspaces as well as resources like business advice and small loans. Jones says it's critical to connect Ruckus to the growing Mass Ave. corridor.
"The goal is to create a drive from Brookside to Mass Ave and make this southern tip where the maker space is going to be more approachable, parking outside, a Mass Ave. address, and the ability to actually access the space," he said.
Restaurant and retail space is proposed for the front of the complex, and there are plans to run a branch of the Pogues Run trail through the building to let the public get a peek at the action.
Jaimes said he likes the idea of involving the community in the act of creating. "It’s something about that story, having a narrative with the product, that you understand this product because you have an emotional connection to this person and you understand what they do."
The $5 million Ruckus project is partially funded through a Community Development Block Grant. Makers would become members and can buy in at levels ranging from $85 to $165 a month.
The massive CCIC already houses artists’ studios and Recycle Force. They will stay in the building in hopes that Ruckus will help jump-start the neighborhood's manufacturing future. Planners hope to open Ruckus by the end of the year.