LouieLab, a new civic innovation hub for public-private collaboration, and the new offices for the city’s Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation, had its grand opening this week.
The lab, offices, training room and two conference rooms are on the fourth floor of city-owned space at 745 W. Main Street. The first two floors are occupied by the Louisville Science Center. The fifth floor is currently the home of the CNET smart apartment, a testing ground for CNET editors to review connected devices and appliances in an urban home center.
The lab will seat around 30 people. While it is technically open to the public now, the system to schedule the space is not yet online; you have to email the OPI2 offices to schedule the space.
In a press conference on Monday, outgoing OPI2 Chief of Performance and Technology Theresa Reno-Webber called the LouieLab “a physical representation of all that collaborative work and cutting-edge innovation that’s been going on.”
Chief of Civic Innovation Grace Simrall gave IL a quick tour of the still mostly unoccupied space. Simrall said that during the renovations, structural integrity issues arose and caused delays. Some of those issues are still in the process of being resolved.
Simrall said that anyone collaborating to create civic innovation is welcome to use the spot, but really anyone working on innovation is welcome as long as they’re doing work. She hopes small groups will take advantage of the training space and conference rooms. It’s a natural base for the hacker community, the maker community and startup innovators.
Unlike most cities with innovation hubs (and there are relatively few cities that have them), LouieLab will charge no fees for the co-working space. Simrall said the city is “working very deliberately to ensure that this is an equitable and inclusive experience.”
The opening of LouieLab was highlighted by GCN, a Virginia-based technology blog and magazine. “Smart city initiatives are proliferating at a blistering pace,” Kathleen Hickey wrote. “According to experts at Smart America, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellows project, city governments will invest approximately $41 trillion over the next 20 years in smart city projects.”
The building is 136 years old and the site of the former Old Alexander Hotel.
Simrall said that people used to call her predecessor, Ted Smith, “the front door to the city.” “Now this is the front door to the city,” she said, indicating the space.
Watch the opening event, including demonstrations of innovations being developed at LouieLab by employees and volunteers alike, including the smart smoke alarm and the potential for Amazon’s Alexa app to work with the city’s 311 service.