(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
At the opening of Spark on Friday night, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called it a “missing link” for the area’s entrepreneurial community. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted the change in Baltimore over her lifetime from a place where “if you were smart, there was nothing for you” to a city where “smart, young people from around the cocuntry are trying to move here.”
Speaking between the two elected officials, Staq cofounder Mike Subelsky thought back to 10 years ago, when he first started getting involved in Baltimore’s startup community.
“It was hard to meet people,” Subelsky said. “There wasn’t a way to connect people that were just getting started … with capital and expertise and mentoring. We didn’t have very many places like this where we can gather.”
He pointed to gb.tc, Emerging Technology Centers and Betamore as community-builders that have emerged since then. Staq’s summer move to Spark grew out of relationships he gained through involvement with those organizations.
The Cordish Companies-developed space, located in office space of the Bernstein Building at Power Plant Live, has transformed over the last year from a single coworking area to space for 22 companies on two floors. The space is seen as a next step for startups who have outgrown an incubator, but still want to maintain flexible leasing plans. Cordish Companies Development Director Alex Fine said they’ve already seen demand.
“Of the 22 private offices within Spark, 19 are already spoken for,” he said.
We’ve covered the implications of tech businesses relocating downtown, and how the moves were made possible. But Friday night was a chance to look at the finished collaborative space on the third floor for the first time.
Designed by the Verve Partnership, the area on the building’s third floor was outfitted with lounge and game areas, as well as a coffee and craft beer bar. Most of the space features the original brick, with touches of soft lighting and earthy colors found throughout in addition to the new office furniture.
A big focus of the new space is community.
Even before the opening, Director of Operations Beth Boots Workman and Community Manager Shervonne Cherry have been organizing events at the space (including Business Day during Baltimore Innovation Week 2015). Subelsky, who has worked on the building’s fourth floor at Staq’s office there since the summer, said the duo are always open and encouraging about having more events.
“It’s not rocket science,” Subelsky said of building community. “It’s concentrating smart people and capital in a place that’s pleasant and wonderful like this.”