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May 9, 2018 | last updated May 10, 2018 8:24 am

SoPoCo Work opens for business after South Portland renovation

James LaPlante was putting the finishing touches last week on the renovated office building at 1486 Broadway in South Portland, which will become the city's first coworking space.

SOUTH PORTLAND — The first phase of the renovation of a 3,700-square-foot office building into the city's first coworking space is finished. SoPoCo Works, at 1486 Broadway, is hosting a grand opening Thursday [May 10] to show off the space.

Owner James LaPlante and crew were still putting the finishing touches on the space last week. The building has seven private offices as well as room for reserved desk and floating members.

There is also a small conference room, that can be rented by members as well as the general public.

He also plans renovations to the other wing of the building, which is about a third of the overall space, and it will house another seven offices.

LaPlante, who also runs Sputnik Animation out of the building, said he was inspired to turn the office building into coworking space by lack of the type of space for those who do video production and other creatives.

The space will include an option to store equipment in a climate-controlled room, as well as two stations for those working on virtual reality projects.

"There's just not a lot of space for that type of thing in Maine," he said. "If someone wants to develop content for VR, but doesn't have the equipment, they can do that here."

'A funky vibe'

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The exterior of 1486 Broadway in South Portland, now SoPoCo Works, also got a facelift with the recent renovation.

He envisions a place where those working on video projects can collaborate and bounce ideas off each other. He said, though, anyone looking for space is welcome.

"I would love to have writers, bookkeepers," he said.

The building has 30 parking spaces both in front, and in back, where there's also green space for those who want to relax outdoors.

The 1980s split-level office building was most recently a podiatrist office before LaPlante bought it, and he's replaced the exterior vinyl siding, put in larger windows and completely redone the interior.

"It looked a little dumpy [before], but it had enough off a funky vibe," he said.

There is new flooring, and the offices on the lower level all have windows, with windowed doors to let light into the interior floating space.

LaPlante said the city's first coworking space will take a no-frills approach, and while he'd like to have events and activities, he'll let the community determine what those will be.

The open house, which will be from 5 to 9 p.m., will include food from local vendors and a chance for those interested to give the virtual reality equipment a try.

Waterville coworking space to open in Hathaway in June

Photo / Fred Field
Photo / Fred Field
A coworking space will open in June in 2,500 square feet on the ground floor of Waterville's Hathaway Creative Center.

Waterville, too, will have new coworking space when Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space at the Hathaway Creative Center, 10 Water St., opens June 4.

Founder RJ Anzelc spent five months looking for a good site in downtown Waterville for the space, he said in a news release. He found it in suite 110, which is 2,500 square feet of first-floor space with a Kennebec River view.

Anzelc, a software developer, said, "I am just really excited to get all the different businesses in here and see them start to work together. I envision businesses and entrepreneurs bouncing ideas off of each other as they have them and collaborating on initiatives."

The space features 20 workstations three private offices, a conference, access to standard office resources including high speed internet and printing and scanning, as well as off-site experts to provide members with business development and technical assistance, the release said.

There is also a lounge and a kitchenette with high-top tables.

The space is keeping much of the interior look of the former mill building, including 16-foot high ceilings, exposed brick and original floors.

"The opportunity to extend entrepreneurial services directly into the heart of Waterville's growing downtown and historic Hathaway Creative Center facility is symbolic of what attracted us to develop our concept here," said Anzelc.

Garvan Donegan, senior economic development specialist of the Central Maine Growth Council, said that coworking is a growing trend in thriving downtown centers. "They are often used by startups or freelancers and students where there is a network of talent and community that you cannot get if you are working from home or, a lot of times, even in a corporate environment," he said.

"This has been a particularly exciting project given the recent activity at Hathaway Creative Center and being located within Waterville's downtown district," he said, adding that it will contribute to the vibrance of the city's downtown revitalization.

The 236,000-square-foot Hathaway building was bought by North River Co. LLC in February 2017 for $20.15 million.

The building has 67 high-end apartments, and tenants that include MaineGeneral and publisher Cengage Learning, as well as an antiques mall, jujitsu studio and microbrewery.

There will be an open house at Bricks from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 18.

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