Some in the "hackerspace" movement shy away from the term, preferring the less criminal-sounding "makerspace" to describe the tech-savvy community workspaces that have increased in popularity in recent years. OmniCorpDetroit in Eastern Market is one such space. Located behind one of Eastern Market's many colorful murals, OmniCorp hosts 25 or so industrious tenants who pool together to do work in a variety of disciplines. Tenant Achille Bianchi, our guide for the day, has a simpler term. "We just refer to it as our shop," he says.
"It's a little bit of everything here," Bianchi says. "Every member who's here brings different stuff to the table, whether it's engineering, furniture design, metal fabrication, carpentry, photography — you name it."
At the moment, Bianchi is filling out orders for his business, Homes Eyewear, which makes sunglasses out of wood. Bianchi mills out the frames for his glasses here, of which he sells two lines — one made out of sustainably harvested wood, and one made of wood reclaimed from abandoned houses in Detroit.
A quick walk through the space reveals equipment for just about any creative pursuit you could dream up. The bottom floor has typical shop equipment, such as saws. Upstairs is a kitchen, a DJ booth, a drum kit, art studios, and leatherworking gear.
Bianchi says OmniCorp welcomes new people to join the collective. Prospective members can check out one of the space's open hack nights, held from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month.
"If you're interested, you get to know the members, and talk to them, and then you find two people to co-sponsor you," Bianchi says. "Then during one of our monthly member meetings, you'd give a portfolio presentation about what you've done, and what you want to use the space for."
Bianchi admits it's an involved process, but it's because the group is tight-knit. "Everyone has equal say in how the space is developed," he says.
Bianchi says that, without the group, he may not have had access to the tools and resources he needed to start his business. For example, the members all pitched in on a large laser cutter. "You could take out a loan for an expensive laser cutter, but it's a lot easier when you have 20 other people who are willing to pay a little," he says, noting they've even managed to almost pay it off already.
"When we're all here, we don't really get much done," Bianchi says of hack nights. "Most of the time, we're just hanging out and drinking beers and talking shop." But Bianchi says you can't put a price on the valuable advice that comes from just spitballing with a like-minded creative cohort. The space also hosts educational workshops and the occasional party.
"I love hosting parties in here, but it throws everything off. We'll get it nice and clean and then the entire place gets destroyed," Bianchi says with a laugh. "I'm like, I'm trying to run a business here!" mt
OmniCorpDetroit is located at 1501 E. Division St., Detroit; for more information, see omnicorpdetroit.com.