Greenbelt couple hopes to create space for the creative -- Gazette.Net


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George Boyce has big dreams for a former dry-cleaning store in downtown Greenbelt, envisioning a “community clubhouse” that provides space for all ages to be creative.

The Greenbelt resident is co-founder of GreenSTEMs, a Greenbelt-based nonprofit organization established to promote science, technology, engineering and math in schools.

Boyce, a security services engineer who works at NASA Goddard, describes the center — to be named Club 125 after its address on Crescent Street in Old Greenbelt — as part “makerspace,” where inventors, writers, crafters and engineers of all ages can work together or individually on projects and hobbies; part after-school tutoring for students; part social gathering spot; and part learning center, where guests can give seminars on their fields of expertise.

“I think we can carve out a little niche for ourselves here,” Boyce said of the site. “It’ll be something a little bit different.”

Boyce said he drew inspiration for Club 125 from “hackerspaces” and “makerspaces” that have cropped up across the country. Hackerspaces are open labs where adults with common interests in computers and technology can get together, socialize and work on projects; makerspaces are open to people of all ages and provide space for a wider range of creative activities, Boyce said. Groups would bring their own equipment in some cases, which Boyce said could then be stored at Club 125.

Germantown resident Richard Pries, a Club 125 member and an electrical engineer working in software systems design, said the club will fill a needed role in the community by providing a place where the public can explore technology.

“Because of the high costs of technology, it’s difficult for everyone to get a hold of it for the purposes of learning. When you buy a new computer, the last thing you want to do is take it apart and learn how it works for fear of breaking it,” Pries said. “There are many IT professionals out there who would love to share their knowledge with anyone.”

Eva Fallon, Boyce’s wife and GreenSTEMs co-founder, described Club 125 as “an alternative place to hang out and maybe make something in the process,” as well as a place where her husband can go to “play with robotics.”

Building robots is one of Boyce's interests, he said, as is promoting science and engineering, but the building will have space for other activities, including writing clubs, knitting circles and other community interests.

Boyce and Fallon currently are paying the rent on the space from personal savings, but said they hope it can become self-sufficient through a variety of funding sources, including private donations, corporate sponsorships, civic grants and membership fees.

“We're using a health club model, a simple monthly fee that gives members access to the facility,” Boyce said, adding that he estimates basic membership will be $25 per month, with family and premium memberships available, as well.

Boyce said he has had several people express interest, and more than $200 has been raised through the club’s website at club125.com, but Boyce said he hopes more people will become involved as Club 125 develops.

First, the dry-cleaning facility will need to be rehabilitated into a more useable site, Boyce said. The facility included left-behind dry-cleaning equipment and unclaimed clothes that Boyce said he hopes to sell to help fund the club. Removing the equipment and remodeling the building likely will take two to three months, Boyce said.

Greenbelt Mayor Judith Davis said the project sounded worthwhile.

“I think this could be a great idea, something people could really use,” she said.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net