Old Glenwood library eyed for business incubator
The same organization that brought a personal success summit, a high school career fair and the second Fridays Glen-A-Palooza events to Glenwood Springs is now wanting to turn the former Glenwood library building into a business incubator and co-working space.
Glenwood City Council members were receptive Thursday to the idea presented by GlenX founder Altai Chuluun and other promoters of the concept. The old library building at the corner of Blake and Ninth just east of downtown, which has been vacant since the new library opened in 2013, would be an excellent place to nurture business start-ups and provide work space for professionals who could feed off of each other’s expertise, Chuluun said.
It would be ideal for those who don’t have a regular office, and would provide a more collaborative environment compared to working from home, he said.
“It’s a way to bring new industries into the community, and not have to rely too heavily on tourism,” Chuluun said. “One of the things that’s lacking with our small market is a way for people to network and collaborate with others.”
Chuluun founded the GlenX two years ago as an organization dedicated to improving the Glenwood Springs community and to inspire business leaders to be successful both professionally and personally. Among its projects have been the GlenX Success Summit, the Roaring Fork Career Fair, the monthly Glen-A-Palooza events aimed at helping downtown businesses during the Grand Avenue bridge construction, and the Super School project last year that promoted Yampah Mountain High School as a model for secondary education in the United States.
A business incubator was one of the many ideas that surfaced after the city took ownership of the former library building from the Garfield County Public Library District.
Recently, City Council entertained informal requests from the Glenwood Center for the Arts and the Glenwood Historical Society to make use of the building for programming and museum space. The city also obtained voter permission at one point to sell the building, the idea at the time being for Garfield County to acquire it for use as a senior center.
None of those ideas have been fully developed, and the long-term use of the building once it undergoes some more repairs and asbestos abatement later this year remains up in the air. But council members said they like the idea of creating an economic development hub.
“This is one of the ideas we talked about in our (City Council) retreat last fall,” Mayor Michael Gamba said. “The building has been sitting there vacant for four years now, and is doing nothing for the neighborhood. I guess my question is, how quickly can you do this?”
Supporter Mike Lowe, a teacher at Yampah Mountain High and a small business owner himself, said it will take about three months to fully develop the concept and business plan for the incubator.
A membership model envisions annual memberships for regular users, and a drop-in rate for single-day use. At $150 per month for part-time use and $250/month for full-time use, the center could eventually bring in $20,000 per month in revenue at capacity, assuming 10 office spaces and day-use areas, Lowe said. It would likely take two to three years to get to that point, he said.
Additional revenue could come from education workshops, event rentals and business start-up mentoring and support classes.
“The idea at the end of the day is that it’s sustainable,” Lowe said.
The group is not asking the city for money to get the idea off the ground, but is requesting that the facility be offered rent-free for five years and that the city’s fiber-optic network be extended to the building.
GlenX would cover renovation costs up to $300,000 and other technology needs. It has also been working with outside contributors including one unnamed donor who Lowe said is willing to put up $500,000. Other partners include Colorado Mountain College and the University of Denver. Financial assistance is also being sought to lure a regional Small Business Development Center director to locate here.
Nicole Christianson, who works locally for Colorado Lending Source, a small business loan assistance service, said she would like to work out of the proposed incubator/co-working center, as well.
She said the center could be modeled after the “Proximity Space” co-working center in Montrose. Potential tenants could include start-up businesses, part-time ventures, and businesses based elsewhere in the state that would like a Glenwood satellite office.
“There’s nothing like this currently in the Roaring Fork Valley,” Christianson said, explaining that the concept is different from Carbondale’s Third Street Center, which primarily caters to nonprofit organizations.
Council directed City Manager Debra Figueroa to help work out the details of the proposal, should it come to fruition. Once the city’s new community and economic development director is on board, expected sometime this spring, Figueroa said that person would likely be involved.
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Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs will present an interactive webcast, “Extreme Fire,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday as part of its free speaker series, The Gift of Education.