CentreWorks opens community co-working space for seven-county region

Published 1:49 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2022

CentreWorks has opened its new co-working space on the third floor of the Hub building in downtown Danville.

They completed renovations in the fall, and have been hosting events, meetings and classes for the community. It is located at 236 W Main St. Suite 300 in Danville.

CentreWorks started in 2020 as an initiative of Centre College. The college hired Anthony and Andrea Margida, who lived in Ohio at the time, to define what the initiative would be.

Not knowing what people wanted, the Margidas went to the community to ask. They used what they call “The Human Centered Approach to Innovation,” which generates community input about ideas. The problem-solving process starts with empathizing and understanding what people in the community want, defining a clear problem, brainstorming ideas that will solve the problem, testing it to gather feedback, and finalizing a prototype.

The Margidas conducted “empathy interviews” with hundreds of people in the community. From interviews with students, organizations, businesses, individuals, and others, the Margidas determined that community members want a space to meet and connect. Students want a way to connect with people in the community.

“What we have heard from students over and over is that they want to do real, meaningful work in the community side by side with people here,” Andrea said. “They want to make a difference right now, learn from the people here, and they want to feel like they really know somebody besides who’s on their campus.”

Each program they currently offer connects students with community members. The LIFTOFF class and Resilience Bootcamp started in 2020 before renovations of the space were finished.

In spite of delays in construction due to the pandemic, the Margidas still taught classes and programs remotely. Anthony said CentreWorks is about fostering community, and the pandemic was an important time to do that. The Margidas have now permanently relocated to Danville to run the program.

CentreWorks offers memberships and free classes

People can buy co-working memberships to work there. The space has a large kitchen and dining area, a “synergy space” in the wide-open main section, a community room with a long table and TV, a “collaboration cove” with bleachers and a TV, and several private rooms and suites for smaller groups.

People can buy day passes, monthly memberships, yearly memberships, or suite memberships. Each pass gets coffee, 1 Gig internet, access to a color printer, and access to the main spaces. Centre students get free access to the space.

Non-members can book meeting rooms for a fee, with times of either two hours, a half day, or full day. Members can book rooms a certain amount of times for free with their memberships. They get a key fob for 24/7 access.

Anthony said it’s great for groups of varying sizes that need a place to meet. He said some individuals just need a professional space to sit and work, with coffee and internet. Some of their current members work remotely, and they enjoy being in a nice space with other people.

“You’re in a space with other smart people doing things that aren’t exactly like what you’re doing, so you have some built-in diversity and opportunity for meeting people and collaborating with people that you wouldn’t meet at your home office, or company office, or at Starbucks,” Anthony said.

CentreWorks is also what the Margidas call an “incubator” for new businesses. Startups, or new or relocating businesses can actually rent a suite in the space as their temporary office. They can get an address there and a key to the room.

Those small businesses can incubate in the space until they’re ready to get a permanent office. Anthony said by being there, businesses can utilize CentreWorks resources like the LIFTOFF entrepreneurship class, and meeting a network of people.

The LIFTOFF class is a free 10-week class for people who want to start their own business. The class partners entrepreneurs with Centre students to develop their business ideas. They do one class per semester; the next one will start this fall.

Students are taught to use “The Human Centered Approach to Innovation” to conduct interviews with people they want their business to serve. Anthony said by that method, startups are more likely to succeed because of the community input.

Space utilizes local resources

The CentreWorks renovations used local companies and local re-purposed materials. Instead of hiring a big outside company, they asked local designer Jenn Ahnquist, who went to the Savannah College of Art and Design, to design the space.

The design was based on community input. The Margidas said people wanted a space that felt inclusive, fun, and creative. The open concept encourages collaboration. Andrea said they also wanted to use things that would remind the community of its history.

The bleachers in the Collaboration Cove came from Hogsett Primary School when they took out their bleachers. Some of the bleachers were made into benches that are along the windows of CentreWorks. The old metal fireplace in Collaboration Cove came from a local farmhouse.

The many small tables in CentreWorks were made of re-purposed wood, and the kitchen table came from a business in town. The Margidas also collected some memorabilia from the old Hub Frankel Department store, which was housed in the space from the early 1900s until 1995.

The Hub Department store was a central gathering place of the community for almost 100 years. Andrea said they want to bring back some of its spirit of being a central spot.

“Here’s this big open space with the best view in town; you sit here and look at downtown Danville, and you can’t help feeling connected,” Andrea said.

The Margidas also plan to put up re-purposed chalkboards, and build small cell phone booths at the end of the incubation suites. One person at a time could go in to make private phone calls.

CentreWorks serves seven surrounding counties with their memberships, classes and events.