Mayor Richard Alcombright is ready to cut the ribbon at Cloud85. From left are Ann McCallum, Jeffrey Thomas, Keith Bona and David Carver.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A room on the second floor of the New Kimball Building is poised to facilitate some big ideas.
And maybe make some small ones come true.
Some 1,370 square foot of old office space on the second floor of the century-old building has been made over into a collaborative work zone for modern entrepreneurs.
So-called "co-working" spaces have become increasingly popular in high-priced metro areas as low-cost communal options for startups and small business. Lever, a nonprofit focused on business development and entrepreneurship, is the first to bring the concept to fruition in the Steeple City.
"We don't need office receptionists, we work differently now that we did 20 years ago," said Jeffrey Thomas, Lever's executive director, after Tuesday's ribbon cutting officially opening "Cloud85" at 85 Main. "We're really just beginning, but the initial response has been tremendous."
The space was designed by Ann McCallum of Burr & McCallum Architects of Williamstown; work was done by Bedini & St. Pierre Contracting and graphic designer Keith Bona contributed elements such as the blown-up images of old North Adams and a shuffleboard.
"We can renovate all day long but this cannot happen without tenants," said David Carver of Scarafoni Associates, the building's owner. "This has been very exciting for us, we've been waiting for a reason to start the renovation of this grand old building.
"But again, we need users."
Cloud85, and the adjacent space being developed for Lever, are also part of a collaborative effort.
"Cloud85 will create a center of activity for the kind of interaction that fosters the rise of new ideas and innovation," Duncan Brown, president of the Partnership for North Adams, said in a statement. "By empowering its membership and providing a collaborative workspace, Cloud85 is clearly aligned with the community and economic development goals of the North Adams Partnership."
McCallum integrated the building's classic design with modern elements and North Adams history.
"I think architecture has the potential to create a mood," she said. "And when we're talking about a place like this, the alternative for most of these people is working in their kitchen or living room.
"We're going to have to make a place they are going want to go to rather than sitting in their pajamas near the refrigerator. We had to make this a place where they want to be."
The result was a mix of open desks, carrels, deep-cushioned chairs and coffee table and two glass-doored offices with a plethora of ceiling cables for plugging in just about anywhere.
Of course, there's dedicated high-speed Internet, a printer and coffee — plus the shuffleboard for those needing a break. The goal was to keep it fun and funky as well as practical and high-tech.
Tenants can adjust the space (and the cost) to fit their needs from quiet work to sharing ideas to private meetings on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.
The first tenant to sign on is the North Adams Chamber of Commerce and a second one is expected to be announced. Thomas hopes more will follow now that the space is ready. "The business model is the same as a gym," he said. "And it's hard to sell memberships to a gym when you don't have the equipment."
Use is by membership, ranging from a dedicated desk and 24/7 access at $230 a month to a day-pass for $20.
"This is to help create a community of independent professionals who are regularly here, who are not only being productive but can get together to meet people doing similar or dissimilar things," Thomas said. "We hope that this will contribute to the economy here in some way. We feel that there's nothing like this currently and that, hopefully, through being able to offer this service at a low cost to professionals and also enabling them to synergize that we can help out with economic development in a small way."
Judith Grinnell, executive director of the Hoosic River Revival, was intrigued with the idea of moving some of the burgeoning project out of her living room and into a more professional space. It might be time to "grow up," she laughed.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said small business and light industry were the city's future.
"We can't get so hung up in our past that we forget what we want to become in our future," he said. "This place says that, it screams it ... it shows our past and really shows ... that we're becoming a creative spot.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the partnerships that have been forged here to make it happen."
McCallum and Alcombright pointed out some of the history, including the curled ceiling cords produced by Cordmaster in the Hardman Industrial Park, the North Adams print (two more will join it), and the oak desktops made out of pews and wood from the former Our Lady of Mercy Church. (Some of the overhead lighting came from McCallum's daughter's studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Carver is also renovating the church, and "he was very kind and let us rummage through what he had," said McCallum.
In fact, Carver has more renovations in mind for the New Kimball Building, part of a strategy of mixed use to restore residential traffic to the area. The upper floors, including what had once been the Masonic Lodge, are being prepared for future residential units — should there be a market for them.
"We hope it will lead to residential housing on the floors above," he said. "We're very grateful to have them. ... We're going to do whatever we can as a company to make this work."
Lever is also looking ahead to a different kind of shared workspace for artisans. A gathering last fall to gauge interest has the organization looking at developing shared studio space for printmakers and fiber artists to start.
But for now, Thomas is hoping Cloud85 will help support and energize small business.
"I hope people will say two things about this: It's where I go to get things done; the other is, let's meet up at Cloud85."
Cloud85 is located in Suite 224, 85 Main St. For more information, contact 413-346-4840
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