The 500 Block of Main Street has some long-overdue life as the Main Washington Exchange has opened in 523 Main Street. Main Washington Exchange is a shared work space offering an environment for like-minded individuals to build a community through collaboration and creativity.
Developer Roger Trettel purchased the property early last year planning a small mixed-use project. Trettel’s original vision was for Cornucopia, an incubator of sorts providing small spaces for retail or service tenants on the ground floor and live/work residential units or office space on the upper floors. Main Washington Exchange’s operation is not far off from what Cornucopia was envisioned as.
“The theme changed due to an exciting opportunity to create a technology/media related space that would bring creative computer/ technology professionals to downtown,” says Trettel “This is a growing trend in other progressive cities. The plan is for this incubator space to create spin off companies and other creative businesses in this emerging block of Main Street.”
Main Washington Exchange is the brainchild of Mark Schroeder and Mark Kirsch. Kirsch’s tragic passing delayed the plans for the Exchange but Schroeder moved the concept to completion.
Coworking is a method of collaborative working for independent professionals which provides them with a comfortable and professional space in which to work, along with the companionship of like-minded people. Rather than work in a noisy cafe, coworking facilities offer that space specifically for people who prefer to work in a place built around the idea of community-building and sustainability.
“We wanted to set up a physical space where the young minded and like-minded entrepreneurial spirit has a chance to not only survive but flourish,” says Schroeder, Main Washington Exchange’s Chief Operating Officer. “This town has some incredibly gifted people who need a place other than the coffee shops where their individual creativity has the community to collaborate and grow.”
The building’s first floor is accessed by a central corridor that links Main and Washington streets. Trettel compares the space to the Market Arcade, but cut in half.
“Our first floor has individual, private offices perfect for the one or two person company,” says Schroeder. “Our second floor is an open floor plan filled with desks and conference tables. It is perfect for the co-working concept. A full kitchen and bath are in the space as well.”
Trettel is a big believer in using local materials including items from Buffalo Re-Use. In fact in his offices at 285 Ellicott Street, he used doors from a school house in Lackawanna, wooden floors all from Buffalo Re-Use. 523 Main Stret also uses recycled materials including windows, doors, and light fixtures that came from a school.
The rehab has produced some small long-hidden features as well including an Art-Deco style terrazzo floor and small, simple yet elegant tiles in the upper floors. This block of Main Street has been stagnant for decades, but Trettel hopes the restoration and repurposing of this building will spur other development.
He believes many of the buildings have sat idle because the owners are waiting for someone else to do something first, which is exactly what Trettel is doing along with Don Warfe at 501 Main Street and law-firm Ricotta & Visco at 496 Main. The block’s small buildings are ideal for small developers or owner/occupants to rehabilitate a building in the center of downtown.
Main Washington Exchange has five tenants utilizing space thus far including Buffalo Lab, a “makerspace” and workshop located on the third floor. Exchange users can come and use the building’s facilities for just a few hours or a full day.
Main Washington Exchange is working hard to fill the space, including offering introductory rates. And tomorrow, August 17, there will a free day of coworking. A free month membership will be raffled away so visitors are encouraged to bring a business card to enter the contest.
As for Cornucopia, Trettel has not given up on the idea.
“Ultimately I’d still like to create the Cornucopia concept in another building on the block,” says Trettel. “I’m working on an art themed studio/gallery/bazaar nearby.”