In 2003, the City of Tulsa approved a “Vision 2025” .6 percent sales tax which led to the creation of many projects, most notably the BOK Center. Now, the sales tax faces its looming completion, and Tulsa City Council has asked whether to renew this tax and what projects to support with it.
Scott Phillips is a member of the group “Civic Ninjas,” which focuses on entrepreneurship, the makerspace and civic technology. He proposed the Raw Space idea with an estimated cost of 24 million dollars out of approximately 600 million that will be allocated to projects.
Phillips described Raw Space to me as “the world’s first industrial-sized multi-use, multi-function innovation space with multiple synergistic organizations under one roof.”
The name Raw Space also defines its purpose: a community space that evolves to fit the needs of the community. It would consist of many different elements, one of which is a makerspace. A makerspace is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate.
But the location would also be large enough so that, “there would be industry partners that would have innovation labs… there would be manufacturing entities on site that actually have industrial fabricators working there.”
The purpose of housing many organizations and disciplines under one roof is to “maximize serendipity.” In fact, that’s the philosophy that universities often take: combine many different disciplines and people in one area with the hope that they’ll get research and other ideas from each other. Raw space would ideally be a place for different ideas to meet, work together and create incredible things.
The proposed location of Raw Space is Evans-Fintube, an abandoned industrial site just east of OSU. This location traces back to the historic economic roots of Tulsa. The land was Bethlehem Steel’s original manufacturing facility, dating back to 1911. It contains the original forge and foundry that, according to Phillips, built the city of Tulsa and the oil industry that made it great. Since then, however, it’s become abandoned and dilapidated and in dire need of renovation.
Ultimately, if accepted, the proposal hopes to improve the economy of Tulsa and make it a place of great industry; the Silicon Valley of the makerspace movement. The project aims to revitalize industry in Tulsa, combining it with newer technologies, giving it a place to grow and uniting it with the community to maximum benefit to Tulsa and these industries. Raw Space would also attempt to draw industry into Tulsa, centralizing the city.
For students (such as those at TU), this project would provide a way for students to get involved with industry and the community.
“If I can get an industrial fabricator to mix with an engineering student working on their capstone design project, then suddenly there’s some really interesting outcomes in that conversation,” said Phillips. “I truly believe that we would have a whole lot of university students mixing in the space.”
When asked what this proposal has been like for him, he responded, “One of the most exciting things for me about the Raw Space vision is that … this specific initiative and vision has gone smoother, garnered more sincere interest, support and engagement than anything I’ve tried to do in Tulsa, which is almost shocking to me because this is easily an order of magnitude more visionary than I’ve ever tried to be with any of my initiatives in Tulsa.”
To keep informed on the progress of this project, visit rawspacetulsa.com.