October 5, 2009- The Dalhousie Gazette
Tables and chairs are arranged under light-filled windows. Sparse decoration cuts down on clutter, and the quiet hum of busy activity puts your mind into work-mode. The Hub on Barrington Street is a place for people to really “get stuff done”, as the website says.
Joanne Macrae, host of the day and one of four co-founders of The Hub, greets me with a warm smile as we sit down to discuss the way the place got started and how it functions.
Macrae and the other co-founders literally started it with their bare hands. They did a lot of the handiwork and renovations themselves. They each put money into the project. They figured The Hub was a good idea and decided to “just go for it”.
The Hub, which opened in February, functions as a workspace and meeting place for anyone who wants an office downtown without signing a lease or paying a fortune.
“The people that work out of the Hub is a real cross-section,” Macrae says. “Small non-profits, people who have been in business for 10-plus years, and small business” owners all share the space.
“We intentionally wanted to be a place where there was diversity,” she says. “We didn’t want to be a space just for one type of person. We have creative arts people, an eco-fashion designer, a small business lawyer.”
A political science and philosophy graduate from Dalhousie, Macrae loved Halifax and wanted a space that could capture the talent of the community and young people starting businesses and organizations.
“We had a goal to catch the bright lights while they’re here and get the most amazing bits of wisdom out of them,” says Macrae. “We wanted people to see that they could stay and work in Halifax.”
The Hub is more than just a meeting space, it is also a “green” space. The insulation is made from blue jeans. A projector screen is a repurposed old sail. The chairs and carpet were locally bought and made of 98 per cent recycled material. Even the nails and wood are second-hand.
“We had values and principles we used to make decisions,” says Macrae. “It was really important to have things locally bought or sold, environmentally sustainable, eco-friendly and functional. We want people to know that it’s easy to have a green space.”
They sacrificed time and money to ensure that the space would set a good environmental example.
Members pay a monthly rate and get 30 hours, 50 hours or unlimited access to the space during weekdays. They can also book events after 6 p.m., or on weekdays. Group access for up to 10 people costs $399 per month for 150 hours.
Macrae says The Hub isn’t about making money; it’s about connecting people.
“None of us went into this expecting to be millionaires,” she says. “The energy I get is just being around people doing interesting, different things, and you can see them taking off with ideas. That’s what I find really exciting.”
Anthony Myers goes to the Hub to do some of his Internet business consultant work. Basically, he makes money online, and for 10 to 12 hours a week, he does so at the Hub instead of at home. Why?
“Great people,” he answers, without hesitation. “We’re all passionate about what we do. Everybody is really open.”
Myers heard about the Hub months before it opened. He joined as a member two months ago, and now is a volunteer host. He shows new people the possibilities of the place.
It isn’t just a place to do work, he says. He’s attended concerts in The Hub, and in June, had one of the most moving experiences of his life at a roundtable discussion on racism there.
“You wont find anyone with a bad word about the Hub,” Myers said.