Donovan hopes to provide that opportunity at The Village Workshop, Northville's own communal workspace to open in the summer at the old Belanger building on Cady Street.
"I'm kind of an armchair inventor," he said. "I didn't have the wherewithal to manufacture the ideas."
Donovan, who has always been an entrepreneur, secured a patent for a pet training product he designed. He is also the founder and president of Petkey, LLC., a Wixom-based company that offers pet microchip registration, pet recovery, I.D. tags and dog training.
Donovan said he envisioned turning the Belanger building into a maker space. He said he wanted it be a space where everyone — people itching to invent, artists, students seeking experience with the tools — felt welcome.
"We want this to be for everybody, because everybody has a good idea," he said.
Donovan piqued the interest of his Northville friends Dennis Engerer and Chris McDonald. Now, as partners, the three have made much headway into the project. Built in 1875 and once the home of Belanger, Inc. — a world leader in car wash manufacturing, its renovation plans had to go before the city's historical commission. Donovan said they loved it as did the planning commission, which granted preliminary approval for the site plan and its 50 parking spaces.
>>See a video of who is already interested in the project.
Construction will begin in November; the first step: demolition. That includes removal of smaller structures that were added over the years.
"The building is going to look very much like it did in 1875," Donovan said.
Further renovations include adding elevators and restrooms, taking out the burgundy carpeting on the third floor, opening up the covered windows and repairing the brick.
Multi-million dollar project promises hi-tech equipmentThe workshop's studio, on the main floor, will house hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Donovan said customary metal and wood working equipment cost anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to more than $20,000.
"There are plenty of designs out there on the drawing boards," he said.
That is why The Village Workshop also plans to have a few 3D printers, which he said can run $100,000 a piece. Technology like that will open up the design potential, he said.
"You can go from concept to product launch without leaving Michigan. Without leaving Northville," he said.
Donovan acknowledged that the project is a serious undertaking. He said he and his partners are investing a lot of their own money into the project, which — when everything is said and done — will cost around $3 to $4 million.
However, accessibility to the public will remain affordable. Membership fees start at only $20. Donovan said he and his team are dedicated to making The Village Workshop an asset for the city and its citizens.