All these plans sound glorious, but they raise some significant questions about how the Wonderland crew expects to pull this off. Foremost are the monetary concerns: How will they pay for it? How will they keep rent affordable? How can they ensure that people who invest money, time and energy into Wonderland won't get burned?
The answer, mostly, is their plan to make the management group a nonprofit instead of an LLC. That way, they can supplement Lykens' investment with grants and donations, allowing him to charge lower rent rates than he could in a strictly private venture.
As Lykens puts it during Friday's open house, "Everybody in this room, everybody on this panel, the city of Columbus - we're looking for help from anyone out there that can help us with this. It's a community project."
Purchases like a P.A. system for the performance venue will belong to the nonprofit, so if Lykens suddenly decided to give Wonderland the boot, they could feasibly uproot to a new location without losing everything. Furthermore, nonprofit status allows the administrative players to get compensated for their efforts while keeping salaries public and therefore subject to scrutiny.
They also hope tenants will pool resources and share spaces. For instance, they envision a workout area used by yoga and martial-arts businesses. Bands could double or triple up on rehearsal rooms. Upstart retailers might split a flex space into a shared workshop/storefront. Under this plan, the more people involved the better.
Friday's turnout suggests that when Wonderland opens, there will be no shortage of prospective tenants. Attracting customers for the fledgling retail center might be a bigger hurdle. One obvious source of foot traffic will be the steady stream of artists, performers and business people that should be filtering in and out of Wonderland daily.
The managers expect to schedule live music and other entertainment six nights a week and host workshops and events during the day. A bar, cafe and bodega could attract people day and night. And thanks to the office and studio space, organizers figure there will be a consistent crowd around to patronize the shops.
They also hope their presence will encourage the city and private developers to transform the nearby mounds of dirt and rock into an extension of the neighborhood they envision.
"We see this lot across the street not as a deterrent but as a blank slate," Brouillette says during Thursday's walk-through.
It all comes down to this: The success of Wonderland will depend on people's willingness to get behind the project and the managers' ability to make involvement attractive and accessible. That's easier said than done, but as he strolls past the bread oven, Dodson says they're up to the task.
"This is a ridiculous, huge undertaking, you know?" he says. "I don't think it's necessarily an obstacle, I think it's just being realistic about the fact that this is going to take a lot of people's time and money and effort. The key is that we've already agreed that failure is not an option. It's going down. We're going to make it happen."