Metro Building Hosts Youth Design and Community Maker Events

October 28, 2023

KINGSTON—The Metro building was alight with community activity in August, from spotlighting the innovative design ideas of local teenagers to in-depth conversations between area craftspeople.  The two meetings – a Youth Design Showcase and a Makers’ Roundtable event – marked the final in-person events at 2 South Prospect Street before interior construction begins in late 2023. Beginning in the summer of 2022, a variety of community engagement activities, including a youth roller skating party co-hosted by The Boys & Girls Club, have welcomed in a wide-range of people, ideas, and injected new life into the long-dormant building.

Located at the intersection of Greenkill Avenue and South Prospect Street in Midtown, the Metro is a major project of NoVo in Kingston and is designed to enhance youth, individual and community development possibilities for local residents, as well as provide a Fabrication Center for area makers. Overall, the campus will include opportunities for hands-on education, training, and career opportunities, with an emphasis on the trades and local production. Located within the Metro will be a 15,000 sq. ft. Fabrication Center, which will enable access to new technologies such as 3D printing, as well as traditional tools for woodwork, metal work, fabrics, and more.  Interior work slated to begin on the Fabrication Center in late 2023, while the remainder of the 70,000 sq. ft. building continues to go through the design process.

The Youth Design Showcase put the spotlight on ten Kingston teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 years old to share their design and programmatic ideas for the Metro. Megan Weiss-Rowe, Director of NoVo in Kingston, greeted approximately 100 community members to the Wednesday evening event by sharing a moment of gratitude for the inter-generational knowledge present. She lauded the “creativity and patience” of Chris Smailer and the team at Dutton Architecture while encouraging the audience to listen closely to the teenagers, “the architects of the future.”

Teenagers on the design team were more than ready to take on the challenge of imagining a new future for the derelict neighborhood fixture; a space that has been vacant for nearly their entire lives. “The building we are currently in used to be a furniture factory and the Metropolitan Life Insurance building,” said Taralain Charlot, age 16, “but I am sure most of you know it as the abandoned building the neighborhood kids would throw rocks in.”

Taralain, along with Youth Design Teammates Matteo Corona- Castillo; Alexander Rios; Messiah Johnson; Christopher Vargas; Lisa Vargas; Manuel Pacheco; Roselyn Vargas; Wilson Speller and Paige Robinson went on to detail their collective vision for the future of the building, which included: clean aesthetics infused with feelings of nature; ceiling art; a variety of games; quiet spaces for study and work, and much more. “There isn’t really a place in Midtown where youth can hang out for free and have access to a fab lab, but that’s possible with the Metro,” said Matteo, age 16.

Most importantly, the group shared ideas behind making a space truly meant for them. “We thought about what it means to have a space that is more than just welcoming, but actually intended for us,” said Alex. For this, the group went right to the source: the Midtown community. “We were tasked to take to the streets of Kingston and ask our local stakeholders for their input for the Metro through surveys and discussions,” he said, “and we combined them all together to create this plan that you see before you.”

Aaron Nelson, Associate Professor for Digital Design and Fabrication at the Hudson Valley Center for Additive Manufacturing, led a group of local ‘makers’ with expertise in everything from jewelry design to holographic art to pottery – in a robust conversation about the future fabrication center.

Centering the Makers Rountable Discussion, Aaron shared the five pillars of makerspaces including: a social space; wellbeing and empowerment; diversity and accessibility; economic development; and education.

“Makerspaces allow for learning to transcend generational and cultural differences through making, creating a community where learning is seen as a lifelong activity,” said Aaron, adding the best makerspaces “facilitate ‘role reversals’ where younger members of the community can share their skills with the older members.

Many participants in the discussion had previously attended open house events at the Metro in the fall of 2022. Building architect Chris Smailer was on hand to show attendees where and how their feedback had been incorporated into the design of the space, as well as listen to further suggestions.

Martin Kirk, NoVo’s Fabrication Center project manager said the keen insights from the conversations would continue to inform the design and programming process moving forward. “We are deeply grateful for the time and energy put forth by the local maker community to ensure the design of this space meets the needs of the community here,” he said.