If Lyle Murtha has his way, the basement of a 100-year-old building is about to be transformed into one of the hippest trends in office real estate.
Co-work office space has been growing in popularity over the past several years. The concept allows professionals to rent small business space inside a collective building. They share such things as break rooms, lounge areas and lobbies and meeting rooms.
The idea not only saves money on rent, but also gives young professionals the ability to bounce ideas off one another.
In 2012 Murtha and his architectural firm Stateline No. 7 bought an old warehouse on 444 S. Center in downtown Casper. The structure, built in 1917, was last used as a party supply store.
After months of restoration, along with the slow and meticulous removal of garish paint from the brick, the building was opened and renamed T-Square.
“People come in here and say ‘Wow this is so cool, can I just rent some space and work in here?'” said Murtha. The answer is of course no, since he uses it for his firm.
“That got me thinking I have this basement that I don’t know what I’m gonna do with and I thought, yeah maybe I can do something here,” said Murtha.
Since the restoration efforts were focused on the top floors of the building, the basement was still in rough shape. That’s about 5,000 square feet of unused space.
After clearing out junk and stripping materials down to the historic bones, the co-work concept is starting to take shape.
“We can share our lobby, we can share our fax and our copier, break rooms and bathrooms and all that kind of stuff,” said Murtha.
“The middle will be an open area with couches so you can just hang out,” explains Murtha. Another area will simply be open desks. “If you just want to rent desk space and you don’t need four walls, you can do just an open desk.”
For the side of the space Murtha plans to build small translucent, closed office spaces and conference rooms. “They can also use our conference rooms when it’s not busy upstairs,” said Murtha.
Young professionals who can’t afford or prefer not to rent full offices will find the concept intriguing.
“If you’re a single professional such as a lawyer working out of your house, it might not be a professional environment when you’re bringing clients in,” said Murtha. “If you’re meeting them at noisy coffee shops or restaurants around town, this is the alternative. You don’t have to rent a full-blown office suite because they’re usually not small enough and you probably don’t need the secretary and staff,” said Murtha.
Co-work spaces have taken off in big cities, and now they’re popping up in small cities such as Cheyenne and Rapid City. A similar concept recently opened in Sheridan, according to Murtha.
The concept might seem strange to older professionals, but “the younger generation gets it,” said Murtha. “If you’re young and getting started, you might need mentorship or other people around you to help…you’ve got other people right here that are renting to share ideas.”
Concept drawings have been produced for the future co-work space, but at this point Murtha and his team are still working to finish removing paint from brick and various other things before construction can start. “We do a lot of this work ourselves,” said Murtha.
“We hope in the coming year we’ll be able to have this open,” said Murtha. “Probably mid-year.”