Inside a new office that's looking to bring startups to Mt. Vernon - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Jun. 26, 2015 9:45 am

Inside a new office that’s looking to bring startups to Mt. Vernon

The CO-OP isn't a coworking space or incubator. It's just looking to build a community of companies committed to Baltimore city.

Ted Davidson shows us around the CO-OP.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Like many growing businesses, Spardata was looking for a new office. The search resulted in a move from Howard County to Baltimore city, where office space was cheaper and there was more opportunity to attract talent. But the transition wasn’t just a matter of moving office furniture.

After two years and $500,000 worth of renovations, the business valuation company’s ten employees now occupy a suite in the rear corner on the top floor of a Mt. Vernon building that was built by former U.S. Navy Secretary, abolitionist and early telegraph backer John Pendleton Kennedy.

Now that Spardata is a Baltimore company, the company’s four partners want others to join them at 12 W. Madison St.

“Far more than just filling it with anybody that will pay is finding organizations that are growing, that are energetic, enthusiastic and especially committed to Baltimore city,” said Spardata’s Ted Davidson, who lives in Baltimore.

CO-OP

A “flex” room at the CO-OP. (Photo courtesy of Ted Davidson)

A host of desks and office spaces in the building, now known as the CO-OP, are up for lease on Kinglet. While the building is sectioned off into individual rooms that formerly housed the law offices of Billy Murphy, there’s a host of available configurations.

See the listing

While it’s not a coworking space or incubator, Davidson wants to see the building become a community for the tenants. There’s meeting space on the second floor. A floor below, there’s a shared kitchen and event space where Davidson hopes to begin hosting monthly meetups in the near future. Factor in fiber internet and keyless entry via the app KISI, and the aim to appeal to startups is self-evident.

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Specifically, Davidson said he’s aiming for companies that are ready to move out of an incubator, but aren’t necessarily going to build their own office. As illustrated by the indoor bike rack and adjoining shower (with towel service!), he is also unabashed about wanting Baltimore companies who aren’t afraid to sweat for the city.

“We believe in Baltimore city,” Davidson said. “We want to see it succeed, and this is a way of investing not only in terms of purchasing a building, but also creating an opportunity for other companies to accelerate their growth into the future. But it just doesn’t happen without there being an environment that sustains that pipeline of growth over time. I think we’re pretty well positioned at the middle point of that continuum.”

CO-OP bike room

The CO-OP’s bike room. (Photo courtesy of Ted Davidson)

The Mt. Vernon location also adds easy access to the train station, and a new neighborhood for tech companies to put down roots that isn’t Canton, Federal Hill or downtown.

The renovation, which involved opening up rooms, replacing windows, new carpet, restoring some one-of-a-kind architectural features and more, wasn’t undertaken with speed as a priority. That’s also the approach Davidson is taking to finding tenants.

The first tenant signed up is Baltimore Corps, which places fellows at organizations working for social change. The organization looked at a lot of spaces as they looked to transition out of Emerging Technology Centers’ Haven Street campus, but said they were impressed “from the first tour.”

“We’re onboarding 30 new fellows in the fall, and the CO-OP has everything we need — central location so our people can pop in and out, room to grow, an amazing space on-site to hold events for our community,” said Baltimore Corps’ Kevin Easterly.

Kinglet’s flexible leasing technically means any company could be gone in a month. But Davidson said he wants to take the time to find companies who will build a culture at the CO-OP, and he thinks the flexibility of the space will also provide room to grow.

the co-op

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

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