CentreWorks opens community coworking space for seven-county region – Reuters
CentreWorks has opened its new coworking space on the third floor of the Hub building in downtown Danville.
They completed renovations in the fall and held events, meetings, and classes for the community. It is located at 236 W Main St. Suite 300 in Danville.
CentreWorks began in 2020 as a Center College initiative. The college hired Anthony and Andrea Margida, who were living in Ohio at the time, to define what the initiative would be.
Not knowing what the people wanted, the Margida went to ask the community. They used what they call “the human-centered approach to innovation”, which generates community feedback on ideas. The problem-solving process begins with empathy and understanding what community members want, defining a clear problem, brainstorming ideas that will solve the problem, testing for feedback, and finalization of a prototype.
The Margidas conducted ’empathy interviews’ with hundreds of people in the community. From interviews with students, organizations, businesses, individuals and others, the Margidas determined that community members wanted a space to meet and connect. Students want a way to connect with people in the community.
“What we’ve heard over and over again from students is that they want to do real, meaningful work in the community, alongside the people here,” Andrea said. “They want to make a difference right now, to learn from people here, and they want to feel like they really know someone else who is on their campus.”
Every program they currently offer connects students with members of the community. The LIFTOFF class and Resilience Bootcamp began in 2020 before space renovations were complete.
Despite construction delays due to the pandemic, the Margidas have still taught classes and programs remotely. Anthony said CentreWorks was about fostering community, and the pandemic was an important time to do that. The Margidas have now moved permanently to Danville to run the program.
CentreWorks offers free subscriptions and courses
People can buy coworking subscriptions to work there. The space has a large kitchen and dining area, a “synergy space” in the wide-open main section, a community room with a long table and TV, a “collaboration cove” with bleachers and a TV, and several private rooms and suites for small groups.
People can purchase day passes, monthly passes, annual passes, or suite passes. Each pass includes coffee, 1 Gig of internet, access to a color printer and access to the main areas. Center students have free access to the space.
Non-members can reserve meeting rooms for a fee, with durations of two hours, half a day, or full day. Members can book rooms a certain number of times for free with their membership. They receive a key fob for 24/7 access.
Anthony said it’s perfect for groups of different sizes that need a place to meet. He said some people just need a professional space to sit and work, with coffee and the internet. Some of their current members are working remotely and they like to be in a nice space with other people.
“You’re in a space with other smart people doing things that aren’t exactly like what you do, so you have some diversity built in and an opportunity to meet people and collaborate with people you don’t. wouldn’t meet at your home office, or at the company office, or at Starbucks,” Anthony said.
CentreWorks is also what the Margidas call an “incubator” for new businesses. Startups or new or moving businesses can actually rent a suite in the space as a temporary office. They can get an address and a room key there.
These small businesses can incubate in the space until they are ready to get a permanent office. Anthony said that by being there companies can use CentreWorks resources like the LIFTOFF entrepreneurship class and meet a network of people.
The LIFTOFF class is a free 10-week class for people who want to start their own business. The class pairs entrepreneurs with Center students to develop their business ideas. They do one course per semester; the next will begin this fall.
Students learn to use the “human-centered approach to innovation” to interview the people they want their company to serve. Anthony said that with this method, startups are more likely to succeed through community input.
Space uses local resources
CentreWorks renovations used local businesses and repurposed local materials. Instead of hiring a large outside firm, they asked local designer Jenn Ahnquist, who went to Savannah College of Art and Design, to design the space.
The design was based on community feedback. The Margidas said people wanted a space that was inclusive, fun and creative. The open concept encourages collaboration. Andrea said they also wanted to use things that would remind the community of their history.
Collaboration Cove’s bleachers were from Hogsett Elementary School when they brought out their bleachers. Some of the bleachers have been transformed into benches that sit along the CentreWorks windows. The old metal fireplace at Collaboration Cove is from a local farm.
CentreWorks’ many small tables were made from recycled wood, and the kitchen table was sourced from a company in town. The Margidas also collected memorabilia from the former Hub Frankel department store, which was housed in the space from the early 1900s until 1995.
The Hub Department Store has been a central community gathering place for nearly 100 years. Andrea said they wanted to bring back some of her spirit from being a focal point.
“Here is this big open space with the best view in town; you sit here and look at downtown Danville, and you can’t help but feel connected,” Andrea said.
The Margidas also plan to install repurposed blackboards and build small cell phone booths at the end of the incubation suites. One person at a time could enter to make private phone calls.
CentreWorks serves seven surrounding counties with their memberships, courses and events.