Glenwood Springs assessing business incubator plan for old library | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs assessing business incubator plan for old library

The former Glenwood Springs Library building at 413 Ninth St. is now owned by the city and proposed for use as a co-working space and business incubator.
Chelsea Self | Post Independent

A business incubator and “co-working” space proposed to operate in the city-owned former Glenwood Springs library building would rely on a core group of about 50 full- and part-time members generating about $22,500 per month after year three.

Additional daily drop-in rates, plus fees for special workshops, events, mentoring classes and other ancillary uses would also be necessary to make the venture a go, according to a business plan put together by supporters of the concept.

In the meantime, the unique but increasingly popular approach to make use of public spaces as a way to grow new businesses and boost local economies will take some incubating of its own, acknowledges the plan generated by representatives from the GlenX community organization.

“Glenwood Springs is at a crossroads of economic development,” the plan’s authors, Michael Lowe, Altai Chuluun and Nicole Christianson, state in the document that was prepared over the past three months after the idea was first presented to City Council back in February.

“Tourism continues to grow and sustain our community, but there is unclear strategy around how to scale and sustain existing businesses as well as grow new businesses,” according to an executive summary of the 20-page document.

“We feel strongly that Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley needs a co-working space/incubator, and the old public library would provide the ideal location for such an endeavor,” it concludes.

City Council was initially set to begin discussion of the proposal at its meeting this week, but that has been postponed until later in June or early July to allow city staff time to prepare its own assessment of the proposal.

Use of the old library building at Ninth and Blake for a co-working space is one of several ideas proposed in recent years for the property, which was handed over to the city when the new library was built in 2013.

At one point, Garfield County was prepared to buy the building with plans to turn it into a senior center. The deal fell apart over haggling about who would be responsible for some of the needed building repairs.

Other ideas brought before the city have included programming and office space for the Center for the Arts, the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and a variety of other nonprofit organizations.

The GlenX proposal is the only one that has gained any traction, although City Council members maintain they are keeping an open ear before making any decisions.

“Co-working is often defined as a style of work that involves a shared working environment where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting,” according to the proposal.

Start-up businesses can benefit from such an arrangement as they work to take their ideas to the next level, which is where the incubator concept comes into play.

“These spaces have grown dramatically over the last two decades and are now located in virtually every major city in the United States as well as many rural areas,” according to the GlenX proposal. “In Colorado alone, there are 27 such spaces, with nine of them located on the Western Slope.”

Other than the Third Street Center in Carbondale, which is more focused on nonprofit organizations rather than private ventures, there’s nothing like what GlenX is proposing, supporters say.

After the initial pitch was made in February, City Council gave the group 90 days to come up with a business feasibility plan.

The group has already identified a private investor willing to donate $500,000 to renovate the building and provide furnishing and technology upgrades, so long as the structure is set up as a private-public partnership with the city operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

A board of directors would include representatives from the city, county and the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association.

Eventually, the center would staff a full-time executive director, grant writer, membership director and administrative support. Those individuals would need to be willing to work for free for three months until the space has generated enough revenue to start paying at least part-time salaries.

An annual operation budget of about $200,000 is anticipated. That would entail mostly salary, plus some programming and utility expense and “minimal” rent to the city for use of the facility.

Proposed hours would be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends.

“No events will be held outside existing hours to honor neighborhood feedback for limited noise after hours,” according to the proposal.

Nine dedicated parking spaces are located on site, so the majority of parking would need to be at the city parking garage located a block away.

“We plan to mitigate parking issues by incentivizing bikers and promoting a ride-share program,” the plan states.

Inside the center, in addition to dedicated office and desk spaces, the proposal calls for multiple conference rooms, computers, video-conferencing equipment, multimedia setup, a large communal area and small breakout rooms.

“We will be open to anybody, but will initially target large local businesses that utilize a remote workforce,” the plan states.

The group intends to reach out to senior citizens by inviting them to come in and mentor young professionals in exchange for help with modern technology.

“Youth will be a vital part of the GlenX space as high school students will be actively involved in developing and managing start-up businesses,” the plan goes on to state. “They will also be used as interns and be strategically placed in work opportunities.”

If City Council is favorable, the next steps would be to organize the management team, pursue first-year financing, develop the organizational structure, work with the city on the building design and renovation, and develop a membership marketing plan.

GLENX PLAN