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2018-01-26 / News

New opportunities for remote workers in Somerset

BY CHRIS MORELLI
Correscpondent


Photos and artist renderings show the history, present and future of Somerset’s first co-working space. 
Photo courtesy of Emily Korns Photos and artist renderings show the history, present and future of Somerset’s first co-working space. Photo courtesy of Emily Korns SOMERSET, Pa. — Emily Korns has a vision.

Korns, a resident of Somerset Township, wants to turn an old hotel into Somerset’s first co-working space. The space will be called Uptown Works and she hopes to have it up and running this spring.

“Uptown Works will be a co-working community in Somerset. It’s Somerset’s first co-working space,” Korns explained. “The concept of co-working is really growing in cities and even in smaller communities like State College and Butler, where you have a growing number of people who are working from home, working remotely or working in freelance jobs.”

So what is co-working space? Well, it’s pretty simple, as Korns explained.

“It’s just a space where small businesses or remote employees who would normally work from home or coffee shops can come together and have some desk space and be a part of a professional community,” Korns said.

There are plenty of perks to co-working space, including shared amenities like a kitchenette or a printer.

“It can be unaffordable for people who own a small business or for those who are remote workers for another company. A co-working space is a place for those people to go. Everything is ready and furnished for them. All they have to do is show up with a laptop and get to work,” Korns said.

Uptown Works is located in the former World’s Attic — which was built in the late 1800s as a hotel.

Korns said there is a definite need in Somerset for a co-working space.

“We have a growing number of people who are working from home, working remotely or working in freelance jobs,” Korns said.

At Uptown Works, co-workers can pay for space on a monthly or even daily basis. Conference rooms will be available for gatherings. The office space itself will consist of three floors, including the basement. The basement will be used for work space and to store client inventory. A child care center is also in the works for the basement.

“The on-site child care center is really unique for moms and dads who are working upstairs. They can come, drop off their children and get a couple of hours of quiet work done,” Korns noted.

The first floor will have an open- collaboration area and the second floor will include private offices that can be rented.

According to Korns, the building will also feature various conference rooms and “telephone booths,” which are closet-like spaces where clients can have private phone conversations with colleagues and clients.

The project is near and dear to Korns’ heart. Why? It’s pretty simple.

“I’m one of those people. I’ve been working remotely in Somerset for about five years. I was working remotely and found myself constantly searching for office space. I would find it, but it can be a bit lonely when you don’t have colleagues to work with,” Korns said.

Korns had seen co-working space work in other areas of the country and thought, “why not?”

“I was familiar with the concept of co- working sites, having worked in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. I thought, ‘you know what? I think we can do this in Somerset.’ I thought we had enough people that are working these types of jobs and that we could make a go of it,” Korns said.

The space, located at 109 E. Main St. in Somerset, will need some work before co-workers can make use of it.

“It’s had a number of different lives because it was built in the 1880s. But it’s a really neat, kind of iconic space in Somerset. It has big windows and these great, high ceilings. It’s a very welcoming, cool place, but it definitely needs some love,” Korns said.

Korns estimates that that the cost of the remodel will be around $225,000. The remodel will modernize the space.

“The (building’s) bones are very good,” Korns said.

She hopes to open the building in April. She said she’d like to see 70 people using the space and is hoping to serve not only Somerset, but nearby communities as well.

Those using the space will be considered “members.”

“It will work a little bit like a gym membership. You become a member of Uptown Works and that gives you access to the building and all the amenities. People have different needs and we’ll cater to those needs. Some need a full- time office space, some only need it for a few hours a week,” Korns said.

According to the Uptown Works website, an unlimited membership costs $200 per month. A membership with a private office is $400 per month. A “flex” membership is good for 10 hours at Uptown Works and is a mere $30. Meanwhile, a drop-in day pass is $25 per day. There is a one-time $20 membership fee.

Korns isn’t alone in bringing Uptown Works to life. Somerset, Inc. executive director Regina Coughenour and Somerset County economic development council entrepreneur and innovation coach Dan Parisi also play key roles.

According to Korns, the response to Uptown Works has been amazing — and it’s still very much a work in progress.

“It has been really good. You know, you’re never sure when you start these things if you’re going to have a market. I’ve gotten a great response from a number of groups. Some were expected and others were unexpected,” Korns said.

In addition to helping those who are looking for a co-working space, Korns is hopeful that its presence will help improve the look of downtown Somerset.

“It’s going to transform the streetscape of our business district. The building has been vacant for two years. It was a thrift shop, which was nice but not terribly upscale. Now, it’s going to be filled with young professionals who are meeting and greeting,” Korns said.

But it’s much more than aesthetics.

“It’s going to be adding to the foot traffic in our business district. The more people we have out on the street… I hope they will be out shopping in our downtown stores and dining at our eateries. Like many small communities, I feel like our uptown retail has been suffering. It feels like it’s a key time for us to open this,” Korns said.

For more information about Uptown Works, visit www.uptownworks.co.

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