Skip navigation

Project: Research potential locations


Project: Research potential locations

Choosing a location is such an important part of the process that we recommend doing it last--that way, you've had a chance to think about all of the details, implications, and factors that are important. Remember, your team should choose a location that will last for a long time, because moving is a real challenge! 

Check out neighborhood trends
Role who does itFounding Team

Examine what has been happening in local neighborhoods. Specific things to look for:

  • Gentrification can cause your rent to suddenly become too high to keep your space.
  • Look for neighborhoods that are 'on the rise' or projected to improve in the near future. (Often your space can become a cause of this improvement.)
  • Look for places where public transit will soon go--or where the routes are being added.
  • Look for changes in population.
  • Interview people in the neighborhoods you like the best. Talk to business owners, talk to residents
Estimated Time1-2 weeks
Level of EffortModerate (research, interviews)
Determine location criteria
Role who does itFounding Team

If your team works to create a matrix of requirements, it will make the process of choosing a location much, much easier. In addition, you will be able to hand this list of requirements to any good real estate broker, who can help your team find a location that matches your requirements.

Some example criteria can include:

  • Must be within 2 blocks of a bus / train / trolley stop
  • Must be near a residential neighborhood (so we can get people who live nearby engaged in making!)
  • Must be within 20 minutes transit time of a university, school
  • Must be within 20 minutes transit time of a population center, downtown, or marketplace
  • Must be within 10 minutes transit time of an interstate highway

Some districts of a city have funding incentives for non-profits to open in the area. Check with your city's Department of City Development or similar department for details on what are the best places to locate.

Be sure to include some requirements around public transit options. How easy it is for people to get to your space if they don't have a car? If they ride a bike? Take the bus? Even if your founding team are all equipped with cars, your future members might not be. Make sure your members can arrive with ease.

Other types of criteria you might want to incorporate include safety of the immediate area and/or ruling out or focusing on specific neighborhoods you have researched.

Once your document is complete, make sure every Founding Team member has easy access--publish it online if you can. This will make it easier for your community to help you scout out locations.

Estimated Time2-4 weeks
Level of EffortModerate - create a list and make a document.
Determine facility criteria
Role who does itFounding Team

Given what the community wants to put in the space, generate a list of requirements for what features the building will have. This list will help your community narrow down the available spaces to one that will really work for your community.

As you're creating your list, keep in mind the following considerations:

  • Consider spaces that allow for workshop space, meeting / class space, and presentation / gallery / event space all in one building.
  • Look for places that have lots of parking nearby.
  • Loading docks make it easy to get equipment inside.
  • Plenty of electricity is needed for tools.
  • While big, wide open spaces might seem appealing at first, having separate rooms means being able to do more than one thing at a time (run a power tool and have a class!)
  • Storage is always running out. 
  • Natural light helps people be creative.
  • Floors made of concrete can hurt feet, but allow welding; floors made of wood can burn but are great for walking, dancing, and standing.
Estimated Time1-2 weeks
Level of EffortModerate (research, interviews)
Determine zoning
Role who does itFounding Team
DescriptionUsing your city's resources (website, city hall, Department of City Development) find out what kinds of businesses can be opened in your chosen neighborhoods. Nearly all cities have rules about what kinds of activities you can do in a certain place, so be sure you'll be able to open a mixed-use space with light industrial and office space elements in the neighborhood you pick. A phone call to the city can often give you the answers--but remember, they won't understand what a "hackerspace" or "makerspace" is. Keep it simple--"workshop and office space for a small business" or "membership club for workshops--like a community center, but for adults." 
Estimated Time1 week
Level of EffortEasy: online research, phone call
Scope out areas and buildings
Role who does itFounding team - with help of optional broker

Take tours of the neighborhoods that match your location criteria. Use local search engines, Craigslist, and other tools to find the buildings that are available in the neighborhoods. Remember this is not about the building itself, but about the location. You might find a building that looks great but is just a block or two too far away from a parking lot, or mass transit options. Walk around! See how it feels. Take your whole founding group on a walk through the neighborhood and look at what's there.

Take lots of pictures and share notes on what you saw, felt, and learned while you scoped out the locations.

Estimated Time1-2 weeks
Level of EffortModerate - coordinate tours
Need help?


The notebook section provides a way for you to store and share information with your group members. With the book feature you can:

  • Add book pages and organize them hierarchically into different books.
  • Attach files to pages to share them with others.
  • Track changes that others have made and revert changes as necessary.
  • Archive books that are no longer of interest to the group. Archived books can be reactivated later if needed.