Creator Square is an urban revitalization, economic development, and job skills transfer program originated by Springboard Principal Paul Rosenblatt AIA and developed with economic consultant Donald Bonk, a Johnstown native. It is an artisan residency program based in the historic, rust belt community of Johnstown, PA, located one hour southeast of Pittsburgh. The goal of Creator Square is to bring skilled ‘makers’ to live/work studios at the city’s downtown epicenter; mix them with local makers, manufacturers and educational institutions; and connect Johnstown’s creative community, industrial infrastructure, and entrepreneurial activity.
Members of the residency will receive national recognition, affordable live/work housing, access to new economy manufacturing equipment, skill transfer via collaborative work, career development guidance, teaching opportunities, and a financial stipend. Creator Square is a means for makers to create and sell their products nationally, a place for makers to teach and learn, and an opportunity to collaborate with local manufacturers on new ideas and products.
Creator Square is at the intersection between global thought and local initiative, a local application of the emerging global trends in both the collaborative economy and the maker movement.
Like many rust belt cities, Johnstown is populated with historic buildings in various stages of vacancy. In Spring 2014, Springboard Design began work with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and students from Carnegie Mellon University to identify an underused building for a pilot artisan-residency program. The three-story Parkview Building was selected and purchased, and is being adapted into an artisan studio building with common spaces, a public gallery, and a shared workshop equipped with machinery for interdisciplinary craft, small batch manufacturing, and next-gen economic development.
The Parkview Building, host to Creator Square Johnstown, will operate as the center of an artisan/maker residency program where participants share amenities to design and make products for their existing businesses. In addition to cultivating this ‘making’ economy and invigorating downtown Johnstown with new enterprise, another key tenet of the program is the active skills transfer between resident makers and the local community. This includes current and past workers in the defense related manufacturing sector. While having the opportunity to build their businesses, the makers in-residence – dubbed ‘Creative Masters’ – will also offer classes and workshops in their specialties in concert with local area colleges and other organizations. The program is designed to partner makers with local manufacturers and businesses, creating a supply chain of salvaged, reused, or scrap materials for their work.
Creator Square Johnstown, the artisan residency founded by Springboard’s Paul Rosenblatt in 2014, recently received funding from the Pennsylvania Economic Development Administration (EDA) to proceed with the $800,000 Parkview Building renovations we planned for Creator Square, a “launchpad for business growth with makerspace and collaboration and gallery space as a part of a larger innovation ecosystem.” Together with the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, Springboard Design helped prepare and submit the successful grant application and are gearing up to begin construction and renovations sometime this spring. We are excited about this project for many reasons. From a design perspective, it exemplifies Springboard’s commitment creative approach to adaptive reuse and public interest design. From an organizational perspective, it demonstrates how an arts led initiative can help to drive economic growth in coal country.
For more information, check out www.creatorsquarejohnstown.com.
(Photo Credit for town hall meeting: Todd Berkey – The Tribune Democrat)