THE BRIDGE | Building Bridges
When you walk into The Bridge community space, the first thing you notice is immediate lightness. The room is bright and welcoming, but not just because Emma Fitzgerald’s art fills a whole wall or the chic designs of Orr Interiors, it’s the same collaborative spirit that brought The Bridge into being which fuels it today.
The theory is that the collision of beautiful people in beautiful space will produce beautiful things.
Collaboration has always been important to founder Brianna Stratton, and her mission for The Bridge was to make it easier for people to do so.
Inspired by her experience with 21 Inc, an organization that tours the province engaging and equipping young leaders, Brianna wanted that magic of taking ideas to action to live on.
“The best conversations don’t always happen on panels or in meetings,” she says, “but on long bus rides or late nights in hotel rooms, that was the feeling we wanted to recreate at The Bridge.”
And so she did. The Bridge is a place for people who want to make positive change in the region, and believe in the power of collaboration to make it happen. From board meetings to yoga, hard conversations to celebrations, The Bridge is a place for community to gather and grow.
The upstairs portion of the building is host to private office spaces currently divided between local enterprises like Car Share Atlantic, Youth Art Connection, Halifax Cycling Coalition, Springtide Collective and Push Fitness. Downstairs you’ll find open workspace for anyone to use, where great ideas become action.
Because she didn’t want cost or space to limit entrepreneurs, activists, and creative people from coming together to make great things happen, Brianna knew The Bridge had to be sustainable and self sufficient. With a background in business, Brianna worked hard with her support network to craft a structure that used the flexible rent from the upstairs tenants to cover the costs of the downstairs space. Reinvesting revenue back into the community allows The Bridge to be non cost prohibitive for creatives and professionals who are just starting out and need space to take their projects to the next level.
But the team at The Bridge is clear, what they provide is a hand up, not a hand out.
“We have to stop enabling dependency or reliance on government grants to make impact. We’re helping people and their teams figure out how to make their work sustainable just like we did,” Brianna says.
With various accelerator programs around the city, The Bridge is careful to differentiate itself as a host and facilitator not an incubator. Amid the existing support for entrepreneurs and tech startups, The Bridge seeks to fill the void for community groups who need space.
“We don’t need more redundant organizations, we need a space for them to gather and collaborate not compete,” Brianna explains, “the goal is to empower other people doing something new; we don’t want our message to be the only message here.”
Part of creating a place that fosters diversity and removes barriers meant finding the right location where people can feel like they belong.
The Bridge team chose Bloomfield Street in the North End because it’s a central, neutral turf that’s about ten minutes to everything.
“The North End is where our hearts and homes are,” says Asher Boates, manager at The Bridge and #LiveNorthLoveNorth, “we’re in the middle of a community with great cultural diversity that we love to engage.”
“I feel more at home here than any other community,” Brianna says, “I grew up in Bedford, went to school in the South End, and worked in Dartmouth, and from an urban perspective the North End is amazing.”
Right off a convenient bus route and with coffee shops all around, in many ways the building bridges different parts of town together.
“It feels like a natural fit,” Asher says, and with his background in real estate, he knows the area well.
“What I love since our launch in the North End is how we’ve remained aligned with the core values that we started out with,” he explains, “looking back on the initial goals for The Bridge, we really made the original dream a reality.”
As The Bridge’s official Jack-of-all-trades, Asher’s role in making the dream a reality goes from hosting Mondays at The Bridge each week to physically taking out a screwdriver to keep things in order (something he got up to do even during this conversation).
Keeping things running smoothly at The Bridge has been a success so far, they’ve had high utilization of the event space without ever marketing it. The Bridge has been a valuable resource to struggling artists, executives, and even during the Nova Scotia teacher’s dispute hosting a student improv group with nowhere to go.
Not far from the North End’s MacDonald Bridge, this Bridge is building connections that cross over cost and space to bond great people to great achievements in the local community and beyond.
You can follow The Bridge on Instagram @thebridgehfx, or drop in on any Monday for the weekly open house to check it out, collide with people, and help ideas come to life at 5553 Bloomfield Street.