With so many professionals in Amherst working from their homes and downtown coffee shops rather than offices, the organizers of the town’s first co-working space believe there will be great demand from those seeking a dedicated place to both pursue their occupations and interact with others.
Plans are underway for creating what will be known as AmherstWorks, which will convert the main portion of the historic First National Bank building, in the heart of downtown at 11 Amity St., into a place where people can tap into fast wi-fi, have desks, sofas and conference rooms in which to do their work and have access to an unlimited amount of coffee.
“Co-working space is really about a lifestyle,” says Jerry Guidera, the interim executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and general manager for the AmherstWorks project.
He sees the spot as one where entrepreneurs and technology professionals will be able to come around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“This allows them to still work from home without being disrupted by their kids being dropped off at 3:15,” Guidera said,
While other co-working spaces have opened in the area, such as Click Workspace on Market Street in Northampton and the Easthampton Co. Lab in the Eastworks building in Easthampton, AmherstWorks aims to be the largest, with plans to sell 200 memberships.
AmherstWorks also marks the first partnership between Barry Roberts, who owns the 1920s-era building, and developers Kyle Wilson and David Williams, the principals of Archipelago Investments, who have developed mixed-use projects Kendrick Place and Boltwood Place, and are beginning construction of One East Pleasant.
Roberts will oversee the work on the 4,000-square-foot space designed by Kuhn Riddle Architects, while Archipelago is bringing the affiliation with Workbar, which has locations based in and near Boston.
Guidera said that drawing people to downtown and keeping them working in downtown are important objectives for Archipelago. “Their tenants at Kendrick and Boltwood want a place like this,” Guidera said.
Guidera said people who become members will thrive off each other. “It’s basically a coffee shop without the hipsters,” he said.
The redevelopment idea for the space comes after TD Bank vacated the site last summer, and the recognition that banks don’t need as many branches.
“The idea is of repurposing a building like this is that it will never be a retail bank again,” Guidera said.
Members will enter the building, likely using a swipe card, through the old ATM lobby, attached at the west end of the building. Inside, the long teller counter will be removed and converted into the cafe, where people can pick up drinks and pastries.
Then, they will head to work at the tables and chairs set up throughout, with many in the atrium, with high ceilings and numerous windows bringing natural light and a large chandelier and ornate plaster moldings remaining in place.
A large vault, with its 6-inch-thick metal door, will serve as one of three conference rooms. On the second floor, a space that once served as the office for the bank president and another that was carved out into a small convenience store, will be converted into work space that overlooks the main floor.
Another room will have several booths where people can make private phone calls.
The estimated cost of renovating the interior is $250,000.
“We’re trying to incorporate as much of the original space as possible,” Guidera said. “We’re not filing any permits to change the look of the building at all.”
The affiliation with Workbar allows AmherstWorks to use its licensed software and ensures reliability in what is being offered, Guidera said.
Plans are to open in the fall, and to start selling memberships at the Taste of Amherst, which begins next week.
Only members will be able to use the space, with staff on site to manage memberships, help with technology issues and schedule conference rooms.
Currently, the price will be $225 per month to be a part-time user, or floater, with access to desks or seats as available for 10 days a month, $325 to be full time, access to tables all the time, and $425 to guarantee both a desk and a place to store and lock belongings.
Guidera said the prices are not a lot for those who may be starting limited liability corporations and could be creating the next big thing, such as Facebook.
“My hope is we can spawn dozens of LLCs through this, and that for many their first address will be 11 Amity St.,” Guidera said
By SCOTT MERZBACH