Noden at Det Blivande Huset?
Hampus, Cindy, Rodrigo and Hugi want to rent a 1000 square meter large house in Frihamnen and invite the Node to be a part of it. It's bigger and more expensive than the Node could afford on its own, but the potential of this space is huge and it could be a 10 year contract. In this thread, we are describing the idea and seeking your advice on how you would feel about the Node moving in to this house early next year. We also want to introduce the wider plan we have of starting Det Blivande Huset.
Currently, the Node has Nobelberget as our landlord, which in turn rent from Atrium Ljungberg. With this proposed setup, our new company would rent to the association.
Time to move on
As many of you know, we now have less than a year left in Sickla until we have to move before the building comes down. If the fantastic community and experiment that is the Node is to be continued, we need to find a new home for it. Our arrangement at Sickla Industriväg has been a once-in-a-lifetime sort of deal. We've had access to +600 m2 of space with almost no rent, which we've been free to modify as we wish, close to central Stockholm, with an extremely flexible and open-minded landlord. We always knew that our conditions would change radically the day we have to move. And that day is now slowly growing on the horizon.
Even if we were to be very lucky, renting 300-600 m2 close to central Stockholm (and with good access to public transportation) would cost between 500k to 1 million kr per year, depending on exact location and characteristics of the space. This is why we started pushing for monthly memberships late last year. We need a solid amount of money on our bank account and a steady source of revenue when time comes to sign a new contract. And we’ve made good progress towards that goal!
In a way, it's like the Node is growing up and soon needs to move away from its childhood home. Up until now, we've lived a sort of sheltered life, free of the demands and pressures of running a space like this with full rent and responsibility. Even if we make it to 300 monthly members before we move, that only covers part of our rent in a new location, and then we still have to have some money left over to pay for renovations, maintenance and to keep investing in equipment and materials for the development of the community. Running the Node has also only been possible because of the huge amount of unpaid work donated by a very small group of people. Work such as renovating the space, fixing things when they break and enabling the event rentals that provide the association with its largest source of income.
Adulthood comes with a lot of new responsibilities but ideally this is also balanced with possibilities and different kinds of freedoms. We want the Node to keep evolving into an even better space with even greater potential. We want to maintain and develop the synergies that have come from sharing a house with other creative projects like Stugan, Satans Demokrati and Nobelberget. We want to keep making Stockholm a more co-created, warmer, open city, burning ever brighter, year around. This is also true for us personally: we now want to see how far we can go and what else we can create together, growing together both as individuals and as a community in the process. Ideally, our next space will be even more our own, and one we can stay at for much longer.
With all this in mind, we've been looking around for a new space. And a few months ago, we stumbled upon something...
A safe haven
In the aptly named harbour of Frihamnen, just a long stones throw from Gärdet, there is an old and charming building that is currently empty, eagerly awaiting a new tenant to fill up its almost 1000 m2 of space (so almost 50% larger than the current Node)... It's surrounded by the industrial landscape of the harbour (open spaces and water!) and there are no residential neighbours within hundreds of meters. Yet, getting there is very easy as the well-connected number 1 bus line (which runs 24/7) stops nearby. The nearest subway station (Gärdet) is 15 mins walk away.
Eventually this place is also destined for demolition but that won't happen for at least another 10 years. Because of this, we'll be allowed to modify the building according to our needs – tear down walls, paint and rebuild. We've already had several meetings with the landlord, and they are very positive towards us moving in and would consider making changes and co-financing changes before we move in.
On the ground floor there is space to create two large rooms like at the current Node. However, unlike our current space, this building also has numerous entrances so it would be much easier to hold multiple simultaneous workshops and events. One of the rooms has a fireplace (!) and another high church-like ceiling with wooden beams. There are kitchens on both floors, and the bottom floor kitchen has two dishwashing machines (hallelujah!), two fridges and wide surfaces to chop vegetables and prepare communal meals. The kitchen could be opened up so that it’s directly connected to what would likely be the future living room.
There are plenty of toilets including a handicap one on the ground floor, which has always been missing in Sickla. One bathroom with shower on every floor. The general state of repair is good and the place is bright and airy due to its large windows and higher ceilings. We’ve done a couple of visits to the place already and every time new ideas are springing forth, not unlike how it was when our current space was first coming into existence in the spring of 2015. The feeling and energy is quite similar and the building kind of pulls us in. Everyone involved so far are sharing the same excitement, but from different perspectives and angles which is always a good sign.
And did I mention that SVT has their large warehouse full of props and furniture for scenography there? Available to rent at cheap prices… There’s also Axfood Snabbgross there for any wholesale food needs, and another neighbour is one of Stockholm’s largest event equipment rental companies. The list goes with truck garages (Stockholm could use more mutant vehicles), spaces suitable for future Urban Burns and gokart tracks, but I digress…
Long story short is that the potential for synergies is seriously rivaling that of Nobelberget. Not to mention that some neighboring buildings may become vacant in the not too distant future in case other aligned groups and organizations would want to move in next to us.
All things considered, it's a pretty perfect place. However, there is one significant hurdle to overcome. This building is both too expensive and too large for the Node alone and would be too complicated to run well on a completely volunteer basis. We also feel that it's too large a commitment for the Node association alone to take on at this point in time. In addition to this, the landlord is much more comfortable renting to a company than to a non-profit culture association. We estimate annual costs for rent and maintenance to be around 1,5 million SEK. In addition to that, running such a large building makes it necessary to start paying a bit for management and maintenance, though we don't expect anyone to have a regular "salary" for at least the first few years. Allowing for some yearly investments into new equipment and materials, and some compensation for work, we're looking at an annual cost of around 2 million SEK per year. We're really excited about the potential of this space however, so we started thinking about how we could get this house while still keeping the Node as a non-profit true to its purpose.
We're starting a company
Hampus Lindblad, Hugi Asgeirsson, Cindy Larsen and Rodrigo Vargas (experienced architect and member of the Node since 2015) have started a company (Blivande AB) that would rent this house and be responsible for it. We have a lot of plans already for the other things that would happen at this house, which we'll call Det Blivande Huset.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Node association would be a completely separate legal entity from the company and that it would continue as it is today. Over a couple of years we will have to figure out a way for us to be able to pay ourselves for our work, but initially we are focusing on making ends meet. To break even, we have to generate approximately 150.000 SEK per month. After that, we’d like to bring the revenue up to be able to pay people running the house for their work. That income would be mostly based on these people’s own ability to bring in paid events/rentals.
Creating a company with the intent to hold space for our community is an experiment. Moving into a situation where some people will eventually get paid for some of their time is another experiment. This will only work if the community trusts us to go forward. We're trying our best to create a structure that will be sustainable and bring about more good things to our community, where the Node and our events can keep existing in a non-commercial space while still existing in a world where money creates barriers.
The Node would rent space from the company
This house is 900 m2 large, spread out over two floors, with the ground floor being much larger than the second one. We would propose to house the Node on this bottom floor, and give it 400 m2 of the most beautiful rooms in the building. This would include two large spaces for workshops and dancing with individual entrances, a great kitchen, a fireplace, a bathroom with shower and two separate toilets (one being a handicap one) alongside a number of smaller rooms.
The Node would find a new home in the most spacious and open rooms of the house, with three different entrances to allow for parallel workshops and activities. These would belong to The Node from 18:00 on weekdays and every other weekend. At other times, the same rooms are used by Blivande AB for events and conferences. This arrangement means that the rent will be at a level that the association can afford, while Blivande AB can use the rooms at times when the Node is not actively used by the community. Blivande and Noden can also swap times or rent from each other when necessary.
Our proposal is that the Node pays 450k per year in rent to Blivande AB for this. That would also include the building maintenance and servicing which is now carried out by Hampus and Joannis but would now be the responsibility of Blivande AB, which would be legally responsible for keeping the building up to code. Essentially, the Node would be a preferred and prioritised tenant for Blivande AB, and we would bring in other tenants and activities to the house which we think would work well in synergy with the community around the Node.
We're proposing 450k per year as something that we think the Node could cope with. We've been pushing for 300 monthly memberships (currently almost 200!) to get us to a point where the Node has a secure income of 360k SEK per year. With an additional 100k SEK in Swish donations per year, as well as income from event rentals (150k per year) and from Afterglow (100k per year) we believe this to be very feasible. And any surplus can then be used to invest in equipment and decoration of the Node spaces.
However, for the house to break even, we need to make sure the spaces are utilised as much as possible during daytime and weekends. To make this as fair and easy as possible the current thinking is a model where the Node association has full and unlimited access to its space after 18:00 on weekdays and every other weekend. During daytime hours and every other weekend, Blivande AB will be able to rent out the space or hold paid events. In practice, this wouldn’t be much different for the community compared to today as the Node is usually empty during daylight hours and also not used more than every other weekend on average.
Essentially, this means that the Node could keep operating as the non-profit community home that it is while sheltered inside a structure that is sustainable for years to come. Blivande AB would be a regular company on paper, but built on the guiding principle of providing co-creative and nurturing spaces for the benefit of the larger community. This would guide us in what sort of things we want to bring in to the rest of the building, all in the name of synergy.
What else might happen in the house?
Apart from the Node, two other things are fairly certain to be a part of the equation; an arts and crafts workshop/makerspace with attached small studios for artists, and a small co-working space on the second floor. These spaces will all have separate entrances, but are meant to work together in synergy with each other. We have not decided exactly how this would look but we are currently discussing a potential collaboration with Ateljé Stugan which resides on floor 5 above the Node and where most members are already members of or aligned with the Node community in one way or the other.
Oh, and ONE MORE THING... Here's your reward for reading through this long post. Synteistiska Kulturföreningen recently received a 1 million SEK grant to start a completely new project called Transforma, separate from the Node, which will be led by Hampus and Hugi. This will also be based at Blivande. Transforma will have equipment to create art for participatory events and projects and to run courses and hackathons teaching arts and crafts. Our goal is for Transforma to grow into a self sustaining autonomous entity within two years. It's a really cool new project and we promise to make a whole new post about it soon describing how you can get involved, but here is a sneak peak since you were so diligent to read through this whole long post!
We're also hoping to make use of some of the large parking lots surrounding the house to create more space with colorful containers and other temporary structures for events and storage alike.
Another aspect of these outside spaces is the potential for large scale art. This would naturally depend on what we can negotiate with the harbour authorities, but it’s an enticing thought. Developing this space will require money, which is again why we are seeing the need to create a company which can generate income to reinvest back into the space while also sustainably supporting those that make it happen on a daily basis.
If you’ve made it this far we thank you for your time and commitment.
What we ask and need now is for you to consider this idea, take it to heart, discuss it with others (preferably in person at the Node itself) and then give us constructive and concrete feedback. Is there widespread support for this move or are there maybe even better alternatives being considered out there that we are not yet aware of? Now is the time to step forward and speak your mind, regardless of whether you are for or against this particular path and possibility!
We are aiming to sign the contract for Det Blivande Huset in early September. Will you join us on this adventure?
/Hugi, Hampus, Cindy and Rodrigo