Tyler Street Lab eyes January reopening in new space

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PITTSFIELD — Tyler Street Lab is on hiatus.

The community initiative closed its doors last month and is moving to a new location across the street, where a January reopening is planned.

Kate Lauzon, lead collaborator for the initiative, said the lab's lease at its 730 Tyler St. pop-up space expired Oct. 15. The lab is working with property owner Mill Town Capital and its architects to redesign space across the street for its purposes.

"We're alive and well," she said, noting that Zion Lutheran Church took on community events that had been scheduled at the since-closed Tyler Street shop.

Tyler Street Lab started as a pop-up incubator space in March, relying on a startup grant through the state's Transformative Development Initiative, discounted rent from Mill Town Capital, and Goodwill Industries, which served as the lab's fiscal agent.

"Then a couple things happened: Goodwill didn't want to continue being our fiscal agent, and we also knew we had to move to a sustainable model," Lauzon said.

The aim is to be less reliant on grants going forward, she said, and to draw in "anchor tenants" — active community organizations that want to have space at the lab.

Lauzon said Mill Town Capital is working with the lab to renovate space at the old Cooke & Burnell building at 741 Tyler St.

"They don't think it's going to take that long to remodel for us," she said.

Now, the city serves as the lab's fiscal backbone as it moves into its next phase.

Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said the city wasn't involved in the lab at its infancy, "but as we observed it, we felt there was definite benefits to the Tyler Street Lab for the neighborhood and for the collaborators that were involved."

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"As a result, the city made the decision to step in and serve as the fiscal agent and leaseholder for, at this point, an undetermined period of time to help the collaborators develop a permanent structure and find a more permanent home," she said.

Even as lab leaders and Mill Town move forward with renovations across the street, Ruffer said "that may be just one of a number of options."

Lauzon said the lab struggled a bit in its previous space because roles were not clearly defined. The lab lost some collaborators, she said, and the leadership team has narrowed to Shirley Edgerton, Stephanie Hockett and herself.

"We definitely needed a structure," she said.

Still, the lab held 39 events in May alone, she said, and the hope is for that to continue.

"We'd like to have something every day," she said.

It's supposed to be a safe, inclusive space for the whole community.

"That's what we're focused on," she said.

In order to grow strategically, she said, lab leaders soon will begin inviting collaborators to join.

"We'll be sending out email invites to certain organizations that we think work alongside, with the same goals that we have, and invite them to be an anchor tenant," she said.

Lab leaders still aim to file for nonprofit status, she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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