Renovations begin on The Gear Factory to improve auto parts factory turned artist studios

Courtesy of Rick Destito

The Gear Factory, a century-old auto parts factory repurposed as artist studios, is currently undergoing renovations following a 10-year period in which a new owner had the intent to renovate but couldn't afford it. Planned renovations include putting windows on the outside and adding new stairs and sprinklers to the building.

Renovations have begun on the infrastructure of The Gear Factory, a century-old auto parts factory repurposed as artist studios, 10 years after the building was purchased with the intent to renovate.

When the owner of the building, Rick Destito, purchased the building in 2005, he began to look for ways to make renovations possible.

“If I had the funds to renovate 10 years ago, I would have,” Destito said.

With the desire to create a vibrant community, Destito purchased The Gear Factory, located on South Geddes Street on the city’s Near Westside. Shortly after, he began to set up meetings to discuss the massive renovation. He created a group site, which would eventually garner almost 600 members.

“I would ask people — what do you need this space to do?” Destito said. He worked with tenants to plan renovations on the recording studios. He also crowd sourced the general concept to the surrounding area to see what community opinion looked like.

Renovations include putting windows on the outside and adding new stairs and sprinklers. The exterior of the building will feature tall windows on the outside, and the covering of exposed cinder block. The interior will mostly feature infrastructure improvements, such as new sprinklers and stairwells and improved rehearsal studios. Overall, the entire project will cost around $1.2 million, he said.

He raised money to improve the 65,000 square feet of space by renting out rooms as music rehearsal studios to local artists. There are now around 20 tenants, which include musicians, painters, sculptors and graphic designers.

“I had the general idea of renting out this space to artists when I purchased the place, but in 2006 I got connected to the art community,” Destito said.

Destito has lived locally his entire life, eventually leaving the area to travel around the world. While abroad, he said he realized “how much I actually love it up here.”

“Everything is so cheap, and it’s so easy to get involved with the community,” Destito said.

The renovations are projected to be completed by the end of the year. For current tenants, renovations should not be too intrusive, Destito said. Overall, Destito is confident that people working in The Gear Factory will be more pleased with the building than they would’ve been before the work was done.

Destito said he thinks these renovations are not only important for the building itself, but are important for the surrounding area and city.

“If I can do good here, then the area can do better,” he said. “If the surrounding area does better, I can do better too.”


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