When we first signed the lease with Clarkston Community Center it was understood (at least by me) that it would be about a month until we could move from operating in a shared space to our own dedicated space. The dedicated space needed renovations before it could be occupied. I wasn’t sure if it was a month after the lease was signed or a month after the first day of school but I chose to operate by the latter once I saw not much had been done by the first day.
The Center made us remove some of the unwanted furniture ourselves as it was full of things they were storing. There were many conversations and miscommunications about sanding, painting, carpet cleaning, HVAC, and carpet laying. Several volunteer hours from our community and the Center’s volunteer base went into painting the space, acquiring & arranging furniture, planning the design & layout, laying carpet, and even moving along the renovations.
With each passing week updates about renovations came with the horrible news that it would be 2 to 3 weeks longer than previously anticipated. The renovation work that was actually necessary, HVAC and electrical, didn’t even get started until October. It got to a point where I wouldn’t entertain questions about the renovations because I was so tired of waiting in limbo, not knowing when to expect to move-in and having no clear progress report.
In the beginning, I really thought it would be a month to get into our space but that finish line just kept getting pushed back. I approached the 1 month as a warm-up and was waiting on the permanent space to really get going with the program. The main space we’ve been occupying is one room in a community center. The center hosts multiple programs throughout the rest of the facility and rents the rooms out (including ours outside school hours). This means we have to pack up and put our things out of sight at the end of the day. This also means limited storage and freedom of movement as we even share space throughout the day. As 4 weeks became 6, then 8, 10 and so on I was still in warm-up mode thinking I had to hang-on for just a few more weeks each time.
Somehow we got to November and I have run out of ways to stall. I think I now have angst about people (students, parents, visitors) experiencing the program in demo mode and believing it to be that and judging it accordingly. I worry about the norms and expectations that have been established now that aren’t intended for operating from our own dedicated space.
Just before Thanksgiving break we managed to get a couple fire marshals to pre-check our space out, this is not something they customarily do. We had previously had some trouble with our architect and the forms we submitted for review were rejected for being grossly incomplete. According to the FM, who is the major thing in between us and a long sought after certificate of occupancy, the space we’ve been working and waiting on is still in need of MAJOR renovations/construction before it’s up to code. This is construction that we cannot afford in time or money. Also, according to the marshal, this is something the architect could and SHOULD have told us prior to ever signing the lease.
Luckily we are in great relationship with the community center and the staff work hard to take care of us. The director of the center has opened up a dialogue about the school taking what is currently the center’s office space and the center’s staff moving their offices to the space we were renovating. This is pretty much the only feasible option on the table right now. Anything else involves money we don’t have, time I refuse to wait, loophole trickery, or location hunting again.
Looking back I wish I had stood up for what I wanted during the summer when we were planning. I wanted to start with a blank canvas and fill it in as we needed to over time. I was trying to fully embrace the trial and error, multiple iterations mindset. Rather than building out something elaborate ahead of time and trying to fit into it, I wanted to start super simple and acquire and fashion what we needed as we needed it. This would have meant saving us so many hours of conversation and labor around the aesthetics of the space. My current perception is that it’s time, manpower, and donations wasted.
It burns me deeply and I so wish I had held firm to my desires. I gave in because I wanted to actively try to collaborate and allow others to participate in the creation process. BIG MISTAKE, I’m autocratic from here on out! Just kidding.
Moving forward, there is hope that we are in a dedicated space come January 2017. We have just 3 weeks until winter break so I only have to stall for a little while longer. But I’ve definitely thought that and been wrong before.