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The Lab is a co-working space in downtown Oakland designed to support visionary changemakers, artists activists, and social justice revolutionaries with the space to make their work easier and to keep them from being priced out of the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to office space, members of the The Lab have access to a host of meeting spaces, outdoor patios, and technology offerings like videoconferencing. The space also features vibrant artwork by artists from member organization Culturestrike, including some of the groundbreaking social justice artwork of Favianna Rodriguez, our newest board member.


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Mike Gilbert
12/Sep/2016

Do Your Due Diligence: Four Things To Do Before Committing To a Vacant Building

This post is the first in a series by Mike Gilbert of The Jones Trust that will focus on how to repurpose existing and vacant buildings in a cost effective way. It is very important not to cut corners in the due diligence process before you commit to renovating a property – you might end up with some unfortunate and costly surprises.  

Many buildings throughout North America are unoccupied, in a state of disrepair and/or abandoned. These buildings present amazing opportunities to preserve history or unique architecture, and it can be more cost effective to renovate than to build new.  However, older buildings are typically constructed using asbestos containing materials in varying components.  Many of these facilities were built under older building codes with less stringent requirements for life, safety and accessibility.

Repurposing older buildings can deliver outstanding project economics and return on investment if we do the hard work on the front end. Before you commit to a vacant building, make sure to do your due diligence. Identifying and fully understanding the potential risks of building renovation is a monumental task for the skilled developer and even more challenging for an individual, organization or group that does not do so on a regular basis. It is critical to be conservative at this stage of the project, investigating all possible risks that can become known prior to commitment to proceed.

As you plan your project, here are some tips to keep yourself from purchasing a money pit.

  1. Assemble a team of experts. Numerous skills are required to put together a full understanding of the challenges involved in building renovation. You, as the lead developer, are like the head coach, matching your player’s skills with roles on the project. If you don’t have the skills already on your staff, you may need to hire paid consultants Some of the roles you will need filled include:
  • Environmental Safety Assessment (ESA)
  • Building Envelope Assessment
  • ADA Assessment
  • Mechanical and Electrical Systems Evaluation
  1. Conduct an ESA. This process will identify any important hazards that must be addressed during the renovation process. Environmental remediation can be extremely expensive, can destroy project economics and potentially kill a deal in progress. Typical ESA costs are between $3,000 and $7,500 for the initial work, although costs can vary significantly based on factors including size, age, location and more. This step cannot be avoided.
  2. Bring on an architect to do Building Envelope and ADA Assessments. The Building Envelope Assessment will give you a fair assessment of the weather tightness condition of the building including roof, windows, exterior skin, expansion and control joints, etc. The ADA assessment will help in the design process for compliance and can sometimes be expensive if new ramps are needed or if elevator upgrades are required. Cost of this investigation should run between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the scope.
  3. Evaluate the mechanical and electrical systems. This process determines the suitability of the existing systems to accommodate the desired improvements. This evaluation is normally completed by a mechanical and electrical engineering firm. The investigation should cost between $2,000 and $6,000.

The due diligence phase of project evaluation is a very detailed process and can range in cost from as little as 1% of your project budget up to 3%, depending on the scope of work and level of detail desired.

Analysis of the various reports will allow you to fully develop a preliminary renovation budget that will feed into the pro forma budget for the project. Our next post will dive into strategies to consider in developing a preliminary project budget and feasibility study.


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Angela Baldridge
29/Aug/2016

The Plantory hosts an innovative and energizing coworking hub that fosters collaboration and nurtures growth for positive, passiPlantory Positivityonate, and community-minded businesses and nonprofit organizations. Our goal is to build a more diverse, connected, and sustainable nonprofit sector in Lexington, KY. We currently house 71 organizations for incubation in our 15,000 square foot building, which was formerly a Rainbo bread factory. Through our center, we support growth and collaboration through coworking space, training and technical assistance, shared fundraising, staff and volunteer support, consulting services and more. As part of our programming, we host 10-12 interns per year, from high school up to the master’s level. Our interns come from local private schools, Fayette County Public Schools, Transylvania University, Asbury University, Blue Grass Community and Technical College and the University of Kentucky. Our internships teach students skills related to research, community development, facilitation, marketing, nonprofit management, business management and community center management. We also sponsor, recruit, train and supervise interns for organizations in our space that need support, but that may not have the capacity or staff to manage interns. Additionally, we accept project requests from our members, so we can match their needs with our interns’ skills. We keep updated posts about available internships on our internship page and accept online applications from intern applicants. Member organizations can also request support through our internship request form.


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25/Apr/2016

When I’m traveling, I like to stop by and visit our members when I can. To date, I’ve visited 41 different nonprofit centers around the US and Canada – of course, Denver has a slew of shared spaces, so it’s easy to rack up the numbers. Most recently I was in Northern Kentucky, and I stopped by The Clearinghouse, cSpace, and The Plantory in an epic shared space road trip.


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01/Feb/2016

It’s All Business was our theme in January. Our webinar on January 21st with Laura Kozelouzek of Quest Workspaces helped us understand the way for-profit operators view shared space. Executive suites and business centers are the precursors in many ways of mission-driven shared spaces and coworking spaces. We need to learn more about what drives their success and what pitfalls they’ve discovered so we don’t repeat them.


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04/Jan/2016

According to NCN's 2015 State of the Sector Survey collaboration is a goal that most nonprofit shared space centers share, yet few feel they have achieved the level of collaboration among tenants that they expected. For this reason, I found The Myths and Reality of Nonprofit Collaboration: Observations from Six Years in the Trenches by John MacIntosh, Partner, SeaChange Capital Partners and Lois Savage, President, The Lodestar Foundation interesting and relevant for our network. Although this article deals with nonprofit collaboration outside of the colocation model, I think they highlight many issues that shared space centers face.


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