By Rich Place
A local couple is turning a vacant eyesore on Mechanic Street into a new-age coworking space to promote a sense of community and camaraderie amongst stay-at-home employees.
Joe and Ashley Lowry have spent the last several months starting Unova Coworking, a relatively new business model that will allow people who ordinarily work at home a desk they can use as little or as much as they want.
“One of the aspects of coworking is creating a community,” explained Ashley during a recent tour of the offices, which are still under construction. “It’s not so much about the space — it’s about bringing people together to best have a productive work environment.”
Joe is president of Encorus Group next door to the office and Ashley works in the district attorney’s office in Buffalo. They are both SGI graduates and simply wanted to make improvements at 29 Mechanic St. for the betterment of the community.
“We bought the building without any intention of what we were going to use it for,” Ashley admitted. “We watched this building sit for years and nothing was happening.”
Ashley explained its location essentially in the village’s center — with the town hall, post office, library and public safety building all nearby — made improving it even more important, especially as “the rest of the village is coming up to speed,” she said.
The couple attended a coworking conference in Pennsylvania to learn more about the business model and thought it would be a great fit for the location.
“It seems to work so much better in a small community,” Ashley said. “People might not be willing to drive into the city where there are lots of different options for workplaces and having that social interaction. Here, we can provide everything you’d need in a traditional office.”
After finding a purpose for the building, the next steps were essentially simultaneous: renovate the building into an office space while educating the community about coworking and its benefits.
“We took advantage of the Main Street facade renovation program,” Ashley said. “We used that to help with the costs of this front section. We had to pour a whole new foundation and put up all new walls.” It also needed new windows and doors.
Much of the work continues to take place inside. During a tour earlier this month, Ashley and Joe said one more interior wall needed to be framed before ceiling work can be finished and drywall can be installed. Then it’s on to electrical work and more painting.
Joe said he hopes at least the front part of the office can be open by mid-September, about the time some parents are looking for a place to work while their kids are in school.
The front section of the workspace will be open for those who prefer to work in a more communal environment. And even within that space, there will be options that range from traditional desks to couches and coffee tables, Ashley said.
There will also be more private offices, a couple conference rooms, bathrooms with showers for those who want to bike to work, little nooks to take a private telephone call and a full kitchen that will again encourage community environment.
“When people are collaborating with one another and finding that support system, then everybody benefits,” Ashley said. “With a big kitchen, we can host events, open it up for parties.
“It’s everything all in one place,” she added. “It’s bringing it together and not making you have to go anywhere else. We want to provide everything for everyone.”
Members of Unova Coworking will be able to rent the space from a handful of pricing plans that are still being developed, Joe said. They’ll range from those who will use the space for only an hour or so a day to those who want 24/7 access.
“They will have the flexibility to be able to work the hours they want to work,” Ashley added.
The couple has been active on social media and has hosted a handful of community events to try and educate the public about their new business venture and to continue to develop ideas for what the space will be.
“There’s a lot of decisions that we don’t know what they’ll turn out as until the community turns out,” Joe said. “We don’t know if the community will want private offices or open spaces, or if they’ll want to come in 24/7 or only after the auction on Wednesdays.”
For additional information on Unova Coworking, visit unovacoworking.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/UNOVAcoworking.