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New CoLab18 Provides Resources And Innovation For North Side

February 21, 2018

By Eric Seiverling

North Side residents, students, and entrepreneurs now have a new home on the North Side.

With the grand opening of CoLab18 on Wed., Feb. 14 at Nova Place in Allegheny Center, the North Side community now features a 4,600-square foot space to harvest innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity.

A year in the making, the space is a community-minded partnership between Comcast, The Buhl Foundation, Nova Place, Faros Properties, Urban Innovation 21, Innovation Works, BNY Mellon, and Riverside Center for Innovation.

The space can accommodate groups up to 150 people and will serve as the North Side’s digital classroom and laboratory that features two conference rooms, a multi-purpose room and work room that utilizes state-of-the-art technology, media and connectivity resources that will be available to the area’s residents, businesses, and organizations.

Demonstrations at the CoLab18 grand opening included a cooking seminar by YouthPlaces. Credit: Eric Seiverling.

Demonstrations at the CoLab18 grand opening included a cooking seminar by YouthPlaces. Credit: Eric Seiverling.

CoLab18 got its name after North Side residents voted to highlight the collaboration of the area’s 18 neighborhoods.

“Our main focus is entrepreneurship, education, and bridging the gap between low-income communities and technology,” said Juan Garrett, executive director of the Riverside Center for Innovation. “We’re bringing in programs to residents who now have access to computers, tablets, and audio and video equipment. Teachers can learn how to bring these tools and products into their curriculum. This expands our ability to have an impact on this region.”

Those interested in reserving a space at CoLab18 can do so by registering at the space’s website, and an estimated 40 agencies have already taken residency at the space or have committed to using the space in the near future.

Using the space already are The Citizen Science Lab, a hands-on community laboratory for students, parents, educators, and professionals, Citizens Bank, which will provide financial workshops, and YouthPlaces, which provides afterschool programs for teens in high risk and underserved communities.

Agencies planning on moving into the space in the near future include Diamond Kinetics, a baseball training company that uses data to measure bat speeds and angles to help a hitter improve his swing.

“Four years ago we were meeting in a Dunkin Donuts three times a week,” said Diamond Kinetics Co-Founder and CEO C.J. Handron during a break between demonstrations for potential clients. “It makes us realize how great it is to have a place like this. It creates more entrepreneurs, and the more entrepreneurs we have, the faster Pittsburgh will become a technology hot-spot.”

Guests gathered at the North Side's Nova Place for the grand opening of the new CoLab18 on Wed., Feb. 14. Credit: Eric Seiverling.

Guests gathered at the North Side’s Nova Place for the grand opening of the new CoLab18 on Wed., Feb. 14. Credit: Eric Seiverling.

Handron wasn’t alone in expressing his excitement about what CoLab18 brings to Pittsburgh.

“It’s a great partnership across many generations,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald during the grand opening’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “We’re about the future and we keep moving forward. We’re five years ahead of everyone else, now.”

Each of the agencies who made CoLab18 a reality had a vital role in the Buhl Foundation’s One Northside Consensus Plan.

Faros Properties helped designed the space; Riverside Center for Innovation will provide entrepreneurship training; Innovation Works and Alloy 26 will host networking events; BNY Mellon provided funding for the build-out of the space; and Comcast will provide advanced technology solutions and well as gigabit-speed broadband service and Xfinity WiFi throughout the CoLab18 space.

This complements the existing connectivity it provides through the gigabit-speed Comcast Business circuits in nine innovation huts in the Nova Place concourse and Xfinity WiFi provided throughout both the concourse and Nova Place’s outdoor plaza.

“Our team of partners just keeps getting better and better,” said Christine Whitaker, senior vice president of Comcast’s Keystone Region. “It’s spectacular to see this space come to life. Access to technology creates education and jobs. CoLab18 demonstrates the private sector’s role in economic innovation.”