Akron's Bounce Innovation Hub gives glimpse of new Generator space

Thursday, February 28, 2019

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Akron's Bounce Innovation Hub opened its doors Monday afternoon, Feb. 25, to give member companies, community leaders and the media a sneak peek at the new first-floor public space dubbed the Generator.

And the Generator will have a decidedly Akron personality.

The 27,000-square-foot space, scheduled to open in May, is undergoing a transformation from the days when the former B.F. Goodrich factory building on Main Street housed the Akron Global Business Accelerator. The Bounce incubator replaced the accelerator, opening its doors a little more than a year ago and bringing in Doug Weintraub as CEO last March.

Among the priorities was building out and updating the first floor to make it open and welcoming to entrepreneurs and the public alike, with coworking space, conference rooms, an event space, a makerspace, a café and a coffee shop, and an esports arena.

The $3.5 million project is backed by funding from the state, the city of Akron through a Community Block Development grant, Summit County, the Akron Community Foundation and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, among others, Weintraub said Monday.

"Bounce is, and will continue to be, a force for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development in Akron. We want to be the reason why people come to Akron to live, to work and to stay," he said.

Monday's event -- which attracted about 100 people and dignitaries, including Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Bounce board chair Deborah Hoover -- was meant to show off the progress at the Generator, which is still under construction, and some of its design aesthetics. Welty Building Co. of Fairlawn is managing construction, and Hasenstab Architects worked on the floor plan.

Weintraub told Crain's last year that the vision for the Generator was for "an exciting, fun, bustling, yet functional and comfortable space with an Akron-centric focus."

Hazel Tree Design Studio is designing the interior, and owner Karen Starr was on hand to share renderings of the planned spaces and to detail elements that will incorporate the work of local muralists, photographers, sculptors and lighting and furniture makers. 

Locally made touches will be evident throughout the Generator, from a welcome kiosk by Dominic Falcione of Krunchworks Design + Build to tabletops in the café area made from salvaged Akron wood by Ed Lewis of Lewis Quality Interiors and John Wilkie of Revere Refinishing. Whiskertin Lighting in Akron contributed some fixtures, too.

Krunchworks Design + Build  is also spearheading the facade design, which will include an artistic light installation to create an exterior that evokes the smokestacks of the former B.F. Goodrich plant. 

The Generator is designed to welcome entrepreneurs and others in a space that makes collaboration easy, officials said. The 1,500-square-foot Rubber City Remarkable Coffee Cafe will have seating for 40 people, and a rentable, 3,000-square-foot event space can hold up to 250.

The coworking spaces and makerspace will be membership based. The coworking space can handle up to 67 people, with 33 open spots, 16 reserved desks and eight private offices. The 3,046-square-foot makerspace will open in two phases, the first of those in May. That will include computers with CAD design software and 3D printers.

Jessica Melton, director of community and partnerships, joined Bounce in December and will manage the Generator. She said interest in renting coworking space is already high, with people asking for tours of the Generator as soon as it's feasible.

The 1,190-square-foot esports space, on which Bounce is partnering with the University of Akron, will have 24 computer terminals.

The Generator serves as the public front door to Bounce, a nonprofit that provides incubator services for entrepreneurs as well as rental space. It has 47 tenants in its 300,000 feet of space, including four entrepreneur support organizations. Bounce itself has 46 entrepreneurs participating in its incubator program and six in its accelerator program.

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