When the Flux Transformation and Innovation Hub opens in the old Carnegie Library at 1718 West Jefferson Street next year, it will be a place to get things done.
That’s the way Charles Booker sees it. Booker is the Director of Partnerships and Development for 1619 Flux, a nonprofit group that opened an art gallery/event space on West Main Street in 2016. That building will continue to operate as 1619 Flux: Art + Activism, while the new space will be called 1718 Flux: Education + Entrepreneurism.
For nearly three years, the innovative space at 1619 has hosted a series of art exhibits and meetings designed to bring members of the community together to share ideas. The organization has now purchased the historic building on West Jefferson, built in 1912 as one of nine local Carnegie Libraries, which has been mostly vacant for the past two decades.
“The synergies, the progress here (at 1619 Main) inspired it,” Booker says. “We’ve had the conversation series, bringing people together.”
For Kara Nichols, who had the idea to create 1619, the programming and art exhibits have been inspiring. She wanted to do more, Booker says.
“The question for Kara was since we’ve had these great conversations, how do we create an opportunity for people to do things? We started looking at finding a space that could be more of a workspace for the public, building on a lot of the great relationships that come out of here. She fell in love with the library space,” he says.
The 6,000-square-foot building has room for a library, co-working space, meeting rooms, classrooms, retail space and, downstairs, room for an amphitheater for lectures and films.
While the specific ideas for the space are being refined, work on the building is under way.
“The idea started around helping folks get businesses off the ground,” Booker says. “We want to help residents build the capacity to do it themselves.”
For example, he said one recent program at 1619 Flux was a resource series for small developers that helped people learn how to acquire and manage property. Metro government and other organizations provided information and training. In the new location, individuals will be able to use the space to meet, do research, and actually work.
“If you sit on the couch, a lot of stuff seems impossible, but if you come to a place where resources are, you can make things happen,” Booker says.
It also seems a wonderful way to re-use the historic building, which was most recently owned by state Sen. Gerald Neal, who briefly had his law office there. It was designed by prominent Louisville architect D.X. Murphy, and a 1912 Courier-Journal article noted the structure is “one of the most attractive buildings of its type in the city.”
It was a library until closing in 1975.