June 08, 2017

Here are more details on Spark at Fourth Street Live!

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Last month, the parent company of Fourth Street Live announced a new project — a co-working space called Spark Louisville. Now we have more details to share.

When people think of collaborative work spaces, they typically think of coders, designers and other work-from-home employees simply sharing space so they don't have to work alone at home. But Spark Louisville will stray from that traditional model.

"In the past three to four years, there’s been a shift of small companies taking advantage of that space," said Shervonne Cherry, community manager for Spark, which operates under Fourth Street Live's parent company, Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos.

Spark Louisville will be the second entrepreneur support center created by The Cordish Cos. The first is in downtown Baltimore.

Cherry said the company chose to put Spark in Fourth Street Live to bring more local touches and ties to an area that has a reputation for being a tourist destination.

Spark will have a variety of offerings for individual workers and startup companies with as many as 30 employees. The 20,000-square-foot center will be in space previously occupied by Tengo Sed Cantina and The Marquee Bar. It will have rental options for individual desks, individual offices and double/triple/quadruple offices as well as suites. It also will have open space for co-working and collaboration along with a kitchen, media wall and lounge.

The point of including separate offices in the space was to offer a physical spot to house a startup company in its early stages and that also offers founders and entrepreneurs a place to work around other "idea" people.

"They still want that sense of community and collaboration," said Beth Workman, Spark director of operations.

Plus, Cherry said, one of the biggest issues she has seen in the startup world is that companies can't afford to blow their budget on getting an office they can "grow into."

"When you are a team of three people, you’re not going to want to pay by square foot," she said. "We want to provide them with a flexible space that is affordable."

Spark will offer month-to-month leases to Spark members for spaces of all sizes — from a single desk to a 30-person suite — so new companies aren't locked into a space that doesn't meet their needs. With Spark, newer companies can rent more space as they add employees. The company also offers memberships for a company or individual that doesn't need physical space.

"You can basically build your company in a cost-effective way," Cherry said.

Once the members are in the space, Spark will introduce a social aspect. The kitchen will have beer and wine taps and will host regular happy hours, speakers and other social events that the startup culture often supports.

Members can get more than surface connections, though. Cherry said part of her job is to facilitate connections between companies that have specific needs. For example, if a company needs a developer, and Cherry knows of a developer who uses the co-working space, she can make an introduction. A few new companies have been born that way out of Spark Baltimore.

In an effort to support the entrepreneurs in the area from the very start, Spark will work with local artists, merchant and other businesses to build and furnish the space, she said.

The goal is to have the space completed in 2018, and then Cherry and her team will start looking for startups, entrepreneurs and individual contractors to occupy the space. She said Spark will have a specific focus for members.

"We really value and want companies who are changing the way we live — companies that are really doing innovative things to change how we live on a daily basis," she said.

That's what Cherry and her team want to bring to Louisville with the Spark space — new, fresh ideas and the Louisvillians who can make them a reality.

Cherry said the company picked Louisville specifically because of the potential they saw in the city's entrepreneur scene.

"When we looked across new markets, Louisville was a standout," Cherry said. "We want to be in up-and-coming cities. There's a vibrant community (in Louisville). There's something happening in your city."

She said Spark officials hope to work with the city's accelerators, incubators and other resources entrepreneurs have in the city.

"This is about being collaborative, that's the whole concept," she said. "We wanted to bring more support and more resources to the existing companies in the city. The more resources and companies that are moving into the city, the better economic development in the city."