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Fab UNION

Fab Union In partnership with the Union Square community, Fab Foundation is proposing to establish Fab Union, a community focused center for teaching, learning, research and economic opportunity in the historic fire station, one that would recognize and honor the history of Union Square, and pilot the future with the community as co-creator. Fab Union, a Flagship Fab Lab, will serve as a local STEAM education resource as well as a global portal, connecting Somerville to a network of 2,000+ fab lab communities around the world.

What is Fab Foundation? Fab Foundation is steward for a global network of more than 2000 digital fabrication labs, or fab labs, in more than 150 countries, all of which bring free access to the tools and processes of technology innovation and personal expression to communities across the world. Our mission is to provide access to the tools, the knowledge and the financial means to educate, innovate and invent, using technology and digital fabrication to allow anyone, anywhere, to make (almost) anything, and thereby create opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods everywhere. Fab Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, bridging the digital divide.

What is a Fab Lab? Fab Lab is an abbreviation for Fabrication Laboratory, a concept developed at the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT. It comprises a curated collection of off-the-shelf, industrial-grade, design, fabrication and electronics tools. Fab labs include computer controlled laser cutters, sign cutters, high-resolution milling machines, 3D printers, digital sewing machines, CNC routers and a suite of electronic components and programming tools for low-cost, high speed circuit design and prototyping. It is what is known in industry as a rapid prototyping facility. Fab labs allow individuals across a very wide spectrum of skills and abilities to design and build almost anything that they can imagine. At the practical level this means that users are empowered to create and build items, from self-powering radios, to laptop computers, to furniture, right through to the fabrication of the built environment.

The Opportunity

The Fab Foundation seeks to establish a Flagship Fab Lab within Fab Union, a community-focused arts and creative hub for teaching, learning and providing sustainable economic opportunity through universal access to digital fabrication. This is a space where the public can access digital design and manufacturing tools to make almost anything they can imagine. These tools create opportunities for STEAM education, personal and artistic expression, as well as technology development. Currently there are many partners and individuals in Somerville that use digital fabrication; this flagship Fab Lab amplifies the impact that these organizations and individuals can have in the community by providing support, training, expertise, space and access to technology fabrication tools, and opportunities to unify the digital fabrication community of practice.

Fab Union would be located at 90-92 Union Square, the fire station in the heart of the neighborhood. The renovation of a historic City asset into a community focused arts and creative hub will advance the City’s goals to revitalize Union Square into a vibrant, innovative employment district. It will celebrate the inventive and creative spirit of the neighborhood and provide local residents and workers of all ages and backgrounds with access to new opportunities. Fab UNION will be a cornerstone for the local creative economy and serve as a catalyst for individual economic mobility.

The Community Collaboration

Fab Union would establish its headquarters in Union Square, Somerville and would co-create with the Union Square community pathways to success in STEAM education, in manufacturing, in the arts, in sustainable living and production, as well as provide new opportunities for participation in the 21st Century economy. A community advisory committee of volunteers would curate, or co-curate exhibits and events related to making, the arts, innovation and digital fabrication. Additionally this committee would help identify and engage community based organizations that could offer related programming in the building. Plans for the renovation and management of the building include spaces for scheduled community meetings on related education, arts, research and economic development concerns.

The Place

In partnership with Union Square community stakeholders, Fab Foundation is proposing to establish Fab Union, a center for teaching, learning, research and economic opportunity in the historic fire station, one that would recognize and honor the past history of Union Square and Somerville, and pilot the future with the community as co-creator. Fab Union will serve as a local resource as well as a global portal , connecting Somerville residents and workers to the fab lab network around the world.

As part of the Fab Union project, the two-story former fire station building would be renovated to repair and restore the historic building’s exterior envelope and to provide universal access. Concept plans envision opening up the old fire station doors on the ground floor of the west facade to connect the exterior public plaza spaces with an interior space that will serve as a public exhibition space and cafe or as a periodic event space. The exhibition space could showcase local fab work. Nearby, a new digital fabrication shop space will be visible to the public from both inside and outside the space. On the second floor, a classroom and more lab space are complemented by an office area that will serve as Fab Foundation’s global headquarters.

Public programs

Fab UNION will provide a wide variety of programming geared toward different experience levels, age groups and interests. While this is not an exhaustive list, below are the main categories of public offerings which would be available at the Fab UNION:

  • Academany Courses - Intensive technical literacy courses (6 months)
    • FabAcademy - How to Make (almost) Anything
    • Fabricademy - Intersection of Making, Biology and Fashion
    • BioAcademy - How to Grow (almost) Anything
    • AgroAcademy - 21st Century Food Production
  • Teaching and Learning Center
    • Professional development for K-12 Educators
    • Classroom oriented activities and programming
    • Fab Lab Manager Training
  • Café and Exhibition Spaces
    • Talks, panels and fireside conversations
    • Exhibitions
    • Receptions and book / film / media launches

Participate and show your support!

Please fill in the community Google form below, to show support for the Fab Union concept, as well as to contribute ideas for Fab Union’s community programming priorities.

As noted above, Fab Foundation is also seeking community partners to form an advisory committee that will help provide input on community programming priorities; identify local STEAM education partners; curate the public exhibition and event space and help organize community meeting spaces.

If you have any questions or want to volunteer for an advisory role, please email us at: fabunion[AT]fabfoundation.org

Thank you!

Fab Foundation Staff and Partners

FAQs

  • How would Union Square and the City of Somerville benefit from the Fab Union project?
    • A historic public building located in Union Square Plaza is renovated with private sector funds and is activated with community serving uses that complement the Union Square plaza improvements planned by the City. The ground floor of the building would be renovated to include a cafe, exhibit space and fab lab areas that would be visible and accessible from the public plaza.
    • Somerville residents and workers of all ages, backgrounds and abilities gain access to classes, programming and equipment that foster creativity and economic mobility.
    • An arts, artisan and maker cornerstone is established in the most central public space in the neighborhood - which delivers on SomerVision and Union Square Neighborhood plan goals to foster arts and innovation spaces within the emerging employment district.
    • A local hub delivering STEAM programming by and for Somerville community members and a global portal into an international fab lab network of 2,000+ communities.
  • How does Fab Union fit with the City’s plans for the historic Fire Station?
    • Fab Union is a response to the Request for Proposal for City of Somerville Solicitation #22-04: 90-92 Union Square Property Lease and Renovation, submitted to the City of Somerville in September, 2021. Through the RFP, the City sought a qualified tenant that could lease the building at 90-92 Union Square; occupy the building with an active community serving use; renovate the building to provide long-term protection for the structure and to support the tenant’s use; and provide fiscal benefit to the City.
  • What will Fab Foundation do for Union Square?
    • Fab Foundation will bring STEAM education and arts services and expertise as well as free public access to technology design and fabrication tools to Union Square. Fab Foundation will also serve as a key convener, connector and exhibitor for local makers and innovators as well as regional and global strategic partners and creative economy participants.
  • What roles would Fab Union serve for Fab Foundation?
    • With Fab Union, Fab Foundation can establish a Flagship Fab Lab that not only serves the local community by providing arts and STEAM educational programs but would also be a leading example of our work to inspire and educate. Fab Union would also provide Fab Foundation with a small second-floor office space that would serve as its global headquarters.
  • What is US2’s role in Fab Union?
    • 90-92 Union Square, the historic old Fire Station building in the center of Union Square, is in need of substantial renovation resulting from decades of deferred maintenance. Estimates for its renovation start at $4,500,000 and the funds are not currently budgeted. In order to bring Fab Union to life, US2 (the designated master developer for the Union Square Revitalization project), has offered to fund the renovation (up to a max) in exchange for Arts and Creative Economy “credit” for one of its other Union Square development projects.

Fab UNION Survey

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