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December 10, 2018

New collaborative workspace opens in Freeport's retail mecca

Courtesy / Thomas Siegel
Courtesy / Thomas Siegel
From left, cutting the ribbon for FreeportWerkes are co-founders Tom and Sarah Siegel, with their son Rylan in the middle; and Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shawna Chigro-Rogers.

A new co-working space has opened in downtown Freeport.

Located at 5 Depot St. and called FreeportWerkes, its founder, Tom Siegel, said the co-working center is much needed in a town otherwise dominated by retail activity.

Siegel is president of the commercial real estate appraisal firm C-Prime Valuation Group, which he founded five years ago. Operating in small offices elsewhere in Freeport, he was himself looking for larger office space due to the addition of new employees and independent contractors. Still, he wasn't sure how many people he'd be adding, so he conceived the idea of starting a collaborative workspace, to share initially and then perhaps grow into. He looked around Freeport at various lease options, but nothing materialized.

Downtown central

Courtesy / Thomas Siegel
Courtesy / Thomas Siegel
Overall redevelopment of Freeport’s 5 Depot St. has progressed substantially since May.

In May he approached Alan Mooney who, with his wife Sue, bought 5 Depot St. last April.

Built in 1985 as an indoor retail mall, the space is on the corner of Bow Street and Depot Street. It's in the center of numerous national and local retailers that attract over 3.5 million visitors annually.

Mooney is the president of Criterium Engineers, which provides investigative and diagnostic engineering services for buildings. Criterium was headquartered at 22 Monument Square in Portland, until Mooney sold it last January. Mooney subsequently purchased 5 Depot St. as an opportunity for his company to be all on one floor and develop the modern infrastructure it needs.

The 5 Depot St. building was half vacant when Mooney bought it. He subsequently began renovations and reaching out to prospective tenants.

By the time Siegel met Mooney, Siegel had given up on the co-working idea and approached Mooney simply about renting space for his own company.

"I offhandedly mentioned to Alan my idea to start a co-working center," he said. "He said 'Hold on, tell me more about that.'"

There were already furnishings left behind by a previous tenant, Siegel said. The furnishings included 17 relatively new cubicles and a reception desk, and the space was fully wired.

"After talking several times, we decided to give it a shot," Siegel said, adding that his wife Sarah also joined operations to run the center with her husband. Sarah is director of member services and Tom is manager.

Siegel found there's interest in the space from local professionals.

"This is a very different thing for Freeport," he said. "Freeport is a national retail shopping center, and here we are a community of local professionals. So it's a very interesting change in activity on Depot Street."

Community hub

Courtesy / Thomas Siegel
Courtesy / Thomas Siegel
Cubicles left behind when 5 Depot St. was purchased last April have been put to good use by FreeportWerkes.

FreeportWerkes is 3,290 square feet. There's an open communal space, dedicated desks, private offices, and several "phone booths" for those in the open space who need privacy for a call/ Skype/ zoom connection.

Amenities include high-speed WiFi and LAN connections, free coffee and tea and access to fully-equipped meeting rooms. The center offers a subscription tier that ranges from remote membership to communal space, dedicated desks, and private offices. Additional services include receiving mail, day passes and guest passes.

Siegel moved his company there in August. The center began accepting members in September.

As of December, there were six monthly members, plus others who use the space according to various options.

"Our goal is to make it hub for the local community," he said. "Freeport is a hub for the regional community and for tourists, but doesn't have a lot of services or local community venues. Since we've started this, we've had a great time connecting to the local community."

Siegel said users include an eclectic mix, including the director of a local nonprofit, a real estate agent, life coach and a doula. Many use the shared space and aren't there every day.

Reached by phone, Mooney told Mainebiz that, overall, redevelopment of the building has progressed substantially since May.

"The building is full at this point," Mooney said.

His company occupies part of the second floor.

"Now we're on one floor — all fresh, new space," he said.

For a recent local event, Mooney had put together a list of developments in the building, which include a new performance/conference venue, Cadenza, that is being developed on the first floor. A small café also is under consideration for a section of the first floor.

Casco Bay Cutlery and Wildflower will stay on as tenants.

"Our goal is to bring new life to 5 Depot St. and restore its role as an active part of the Freeport community," Mooney wrote.

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