The Mill, a collaborative workspace in NE, is closing

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April 3, 2013 // UPDATED 2:42 pm - April 12, 2013
By: Mike Munzenrider
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Mike Munzenrider

The Mill, a collaborative workplace in Northeast, plans to close up shop April 20, after just over one year of operations.

Located near Broadway Street and Stinson Boulevard, the “maker space,” which houses high-tech equipment such as 3d printers, computer numerical control (CNC) routers, and a laser cutter, provided classes and work space to nearly 400 people since it opened Feb. 1 of last year.

Brian Boyle, president of The Mill, said the closing came down to an inability to provide enough equipment to meet the needs of his members in an affordable way.

“There was not enough revenue to support the running of the business in its current state,” he said.

Boyle said he discussed The Mill’s financial shortcomings with members at a meeting in January and instituted a member wait list in February to mitigate the usage demands on equipment, particularly the laser cutter. While members were supportive, neither move solved the revenue issue.

“This is not a failed idea, but an iteration [of an idea that didn’t work out],” Boyle said.

According to Boyle, some notable work has emerged from The Mill. A group constructed a small-room-sized submarine simulator called “The Hunt for Red September,” which finished second in last year’s Red Bull Creation, a tech contest put on by the energy drink company.

Another member built a motorized tricycle for the Minnesota Twins, while another created custom wooden tab handles for Indeed Brewing using a CNC router. There’s also a small helicopter drone, created from 3D printed parts, electronics and found items.

With The Mill closing its doors soon, Boyle said members are “frenetically trying to get everything done.” He has yet to commit to selling any of the equipment, waiting to see all his options.

Boyle said he is confidant that someone else will continue to carry the “make space” mantle; in a future iteration, he would like to consult and share his knowledge, but in a role as a member

“Shared resources make sense,” Boyle said. “Creating spaces that work to create and provide makes sense on a core level that doesn’t end with The Mill.”

Boyle said he sees what he calls a “maker movement” developing, people creating and fixing and reworking items on their own; “It’s an old idea with a new term,” he said.

“I’m just one person and there’s something large happening around us,” Boyle said. “It’s about becoming learners again.”