Lowcountry Local First opened a new HQ, including more than 5,000 square feet of coworking space on Summerville Avenue in Charleston late last week.
The location in the Lumberyard commercial development expands and modernizes the nonprofit, small business advocacy group’s ability to help support individual entrepreneurs and early stage startups with more offices, more services and with less flooding.
The organization’s previous location on upper Meeting Street was prone to flooding and the space was limited. A ribbon cutting streamed online last Friday signaled the opening of a larger, elevated space in addition to expanded, dedicated parking.
The idea behind Local Works is unchanged, organizers said. It will continue offering a low-cost option for local businesses that need commercial space. The added benefit is similar to other coworking locations across the region, which is a creative environment where entrepreneurs can talk and share ideas and discover commonalities that could lead to new business.
Former Executive Director Jamee Haley, who announced she was stepping down last fall, continues to serve in a consulting capacity with the organization and was a large part of the new Local Works project. She said the new facility expands on the mission that started with the first Local Works location in 2014.
“This is a really fun project to get to work on in an otherwise really crazy year, to be able to do something creative and exciting and to be able to lead the great team of Lowcountry Local First with a beautiful space to come back to work in,” Haley said.
Local Works has nine private offices, 26 full-time seats, five semi-private pods, three phone booths, which also double as lactation facilities for moms, a kitchen and espresso bar.
The facility also has other meeting spaces for small and larger collaboration, including two conference rooms with AV technology.
The space, which is open 24/7, said Jordan Amaker, director of marketing and communications for Lowcountry Local First, is in the Lumberyard operated by RCB Development.
Amaker pointed out that the facility build out, including construction and the art on the walls, is all local. Lowcountry Local First used local service providers, contractors, architects, craftspeople, artists, landscape artists and others to build Local Works.
“This new space has once again been intentionally crafted to be a microcosmic view of the broader network of local businesses that Lowcountry Local First has cultivated over the last 14 years,” Amaker said.
Local Works is open, but following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit occupancy during the coronavirus pandemic. Amaker said this limited capacity allows Local Works to operate with social distancing guidelines in place. Masks along with other safety protocols also are required for guests to enter the facility.
“When the CDC deems it safe to do so, Lowcountry Local First looks forward to once again using Local Works as a community hub to provide in-person engagement through member-hosted events, workshops, art receptions, and other networking and business-development opportunities,” Amaker said.
She said the location took that into consideration when Lowcountry Local First was looking for a new place. The Lumber Yard development is on the north end of the Lowline, which is a planned park system and green space. It’s also in the nearby brewery district.
Haley said the development of the new Local Works understood the current remote working situation for many businesses.
“One of the things that we really wanted to do in creating this space was make it a place where people were excited to come back into the workplace again,” Haley said. “We know a lot of people are feeling isolated and we really wanted it to feel like sort of their home away from home for so many people who are tired of working from home.”
David Thompson, principal of David Thompson Architects, worked on both versions of Local Works.
“To do something meaningful and something that matters and that is going to last longer than 2020 was really exciting for us,” Thompson said. “So we look at this as just a great start to a new year and an catalyst to ongoing change.”C