Coworking is defined as much by community as it is by the desks and copious amounts of coffee it offers. When it comes to a coworking space taking root in a neighborhood, that means there can be a role that goes beyond flexible leasing as a gathering place for the surrounding area, and add creative energy.
For Lisa Frank and Gene Ward, that idea was at the heart of Function Coworking Community, a new space opening they’re opening this week in Northeast Baltimore’s Greater Lauraville. It’s located on a commercial “main street”–type section of Harford Rd. (just down the street from Zeke’s Coffee), surrounded by residential neighborhoods with single family homes. Along with providing a space for entrepreneurs and businesses, Ward said the co-owners are putting a priority on bringing in the surrounding neighborhood.
Along with housing businesses, Function also has designated 1,500 sq. ft. for an art gallery, and there’s also meeting space for community groups.
“In order to make it successful, we felt we had to bring the community in, more than just being a coworking space,” Ward said during a tour this week.
Working with developer Sam Polakoff and architect Charles Alexander, Frank and Ward worked over two years to transform two stories inside a former movie theatre built in 1920 at 4709 Harford Rd. The 11,000 sq. ft. space doesn’t have groups of desks. On a tour this week, Ward said he formerly worked at office provider Regus, and got interested in coworking. When he and Frank decided to start their own, influential spaces such as Philly’s 11-year-old Indy Hall provided inspiration.
At Function, the coworking space has room for 150 members. Members have the option of working in a dozen offices that can fit one and two people, or the open workspace including lounge and bar (which is original to the building), as well as a conference room and community kitchen. An outdoor patio, which resulted from work to expose a two-story interior section of the building, offers another setting. The building has fiber internet, thanks to a node that was located nearby, Ward said.
Art is integrated throughout the space. The gallery will play host to curated exhibitions. The first show is fittingly called Launch, curated by Alex French, and featuring work from Baltimore artists Christopher Batten, Jessica Damen, Dan Dudrow, and Rachel Rotenberg. Each of the rooms and spaces is also accented by art. Turn the corner downstairs, and there’s a mural by Adam Estes.
The gallery will also play host to performances, such as the monthly roots music series North by Northeast. This particular function will be on display at a kickoff party on Saturday, October 6, when jazz pianist Lafayette Gilchrist plays with the Sonic Trip Masters. The event is on the first day of Baltimore Innovation Week.
The space is also providing a home for community groups, such as meetings of the Lauraville Improvement Association and Herring Run Park.
“We’re trying to make it a community center,” Ward said.
Here’s a look at the space:
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