By Noah Abbe
More than two months since the launch of Founders Hall in April, Alx Community partners Scott Shaw and Kelly Grant say the co-working space is thriving.
Shaw, who spearheaded the development of Founders Hall, was inspired to create the space out of what he considered “the ugliest building in Old Town.”
“I’d walk by this building a lot of times, like a lot of other people in Old Town, and I kept thinking, ‘What could you do with that building?’” Shaw said. “What’s not here that should be here?”
Shaw initially considered converting the entire building into a co-working space, but opted instead to combine a number of uses under the same roof, with the help of his connections.
“If you put a couple uses together, one plus one plus one might equal seven,” Shaw said.
Shaw said, when considering what to put inside Founders Hall, he thought about what the neighborhood needed.
“We wanted to figure out what’s not in the market, and then put together a beautifully designed space that hopefully would resonate with the community, and it seems that it has,” Shaw said.
The building was always envisioned as an open workspace, which meant Shaw
and his team had a number of renovations ahead of them.
“The building took a great deal of work and it took a while to figure out how to squeeze everything into one building,” Shaw said. “It had no windows, so the first problem was opening the space up.”
The finished product is home to a South Block, which serves cold press juices, smoothies, acai bowls and coffee, the 116 King pop-up boutique and yoga studio Vikriya Lab on the ground floor and co-working space Alx Community on the second floor.
Shaw said architect Paul Beckmann and contractor Russell Gage were able to make his initial vision a reality. Beckmann’s work, which included installing a massive skylight and floor-to-ceiling windows on the upper level, was extraordinary, according to Shaw.
Now, just a few months after its grand opening, Shaw and business partner Grant consider Alx Community to be an early success.
Capacity is filling for the co-working space, which offers memberships ranging
from $149 for 30 hours of access per month to $375 for a dedicated desk to $1,100 for a private office.
“We’re five months ahead of our plan on the co-working leasing,” Shaw said. “We’re at around 85 percent capacity for the co-working, which was our long term goal. The four businesses are all running ahead of plan.”
Grant was pleased with the sense of community that has been built in Founders Hall.
“The most successful part has been watching people thrive. They get to collaborate together. One of our members made her first sale within her first eight days here. People form new partnerships,” Grant said. “We’ve got a web designer developing content and sites for a nonprofit. We have nonprofits partnering with businesses. That’s the whole dream of why we want to do this well, because they are forming a community.”
Shaw said co-working spaces, like Alx Community, are where the workplace is headed.
“Companies are looking for more flexibility in their office environment, and they’re looking for a different kind of environment. That’s what this represents,” Shaw said.
Grant said one of the things that makes Alx Community a unique workspace is its open door policy for canine companions.
“Alexandria is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country,” Grant said. “It was a super simple decision to make when we realized that people work better and enjoy their work more when they can do so with their pup. On any day, we typically have one or two, and on our busiest day so far we had five.”
Shaw said Grant’s specialty is working to build a sense of community through frequent events, such as book clubs, lectures and food and wine tastings.
“That’s where my partner Kelly comes in,” Shaw said. “She’s put a rich content layer
together, so [on] any given week, there’s five to six different things going on. It might be talks on personal financing, it might be a wine tasting, it might be a startup advice session or a coding workshop. We’re about celebrating what makes Alexandria different and special, and that’s our membership.”
Founders Hall hosts the TALX series, in which local speakers present their area of expertise. Other events include the Girls Night In series, a book club.
“We’ve done about 31 events in the last nine weeks,” Grant said, “My hope is that we’ll continue to do that. As a previous small business owner, I remember thinking how hard it is every day just to do my job, and I wasn’t the expert on all the different things that I needed to be. We’ve been putting together programs and content that small business owners and the larger community of Alexandria can benefit from. We
open those up to the public and to our members for free. We’ve had well over a thousand people attending our events in the last nine weeks.”
Grant said she considers the biggest success as giving people the opportunity to work together.
“The most successful part has been watching people thrive,” Grant said.
“They get to collaborate together. People form new partnerships. That’s the whole dream of why we want to do this well, because they are forming a