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CoLab18 opens as technology resource hub on Pittsburgh’s North Side

Aaron Aupperlee
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Cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of CoLab18 on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at Nova Place on Pittsburgh's North Side. (Photo by Aaron Aupperlee)

CoLab18 opened Wednesday inside Nova Place with a bold statement.

Much of Pittsburgh’s growth in technology is happening around the universities in Oakland and throughout the East End, but Juan Garrett, executive director of Riverside Center for Innovation, didn’t want people to forget about the 18 neighborhoods of Pittsburgh’s North Side.

“The North Side is here also,” Garrett said Wednesday during the grand opening of CoLab18, a space inside Nova Place where nonprofits, businesses and community groups can meet for tech training and other resources. “We’re going to definitely put the North Side on the map.”

CoLab18 is part of the One Northside initiative, a partnership of community groups, foundations and tech companies and organizations. The Buhl Foundation, Nova Place, Comcast and Urban Innovation 21 formed a partnership last year to support the initiative. Garrett’s Riverside Center, the BNY Mellon Foundation and Innovation Works have also joined.

The space will host meetings and trainings. It will be a place for people to access technologies like tablets and high-speed internet and learn how to use technology. CoLab18 has a large conference room and several smaller rooms to accommodate meetings and trainings. There’s a lounge and offices to work in.

For Wednesday’s opening, the space was packed. Diana Bucco, president of the Buhl Foundation, which provided $75,000 in grant money for the CoLab18, apologized for the crowd but was also ecstatic.

“It is an indication of how right this is at this time,” Bucco said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said spaces like CoLab18 are part of what is driving Pittsburgh’s transformation. Fitzgerald used a joke he heard former county Executive Jim Roddey tell decades ago to illustrate how far the region has come.

Two men are sitting on a park bench and one turns to the other and asks what he would do if he knew an meteor was going to hit the Earth and the world was going to end in a week, Fitzgerald said, retelling the joke. The other man replies that he’d move to Pittsburgh.

“Because things always take five years longer to get to Pittsburgh,” Fitzgerald said, delivering the punchline.

“Twenty years ago, that was true in the late 90s. Twenty years later, we’re five years ahead of everybody else. And places like this are the reason that that’s happening,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re moving forward. We’re innovating. This place, CoLab18, signifies what’s happening. It’s not just in the East End. It’s all over the region.”

CoLab18 is open for anyone in the community to use. People will soon be able to reserve space at www.colab18.org .

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected], 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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