AUGUSTA — A new collaborative workspace is coming to downtown Augusta.

The owners of Riverview Terrace, at 227 Water St., are converting the second floor of the building into office space for startups, small businesses and anyone else who needs space and doesn’t want to spend the money to set up their own office.

“We know it’s a space that would be tough to rent, which was kind of the genesis of this co-working concept,” said co-owner Will Guerrette during a tour of the building Wednesday. “I think this will be a good use of the space.”

The building, the former home of the Lipman & Katz law firm and a branch of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, is owned by several members of the Guerrette family, including two of Will’s uncles, his father and an aunt. Earlier this year, the corporate headquarters of Sun Tan City New England and SportClips of Northern New England, both owned by the Guerrettes, moved into new offices on the second floor.

“We don’t need this whole floor, so one of the things we were struggling with was how we can best use the floor in a way that best uses the space,” said Guerrette, the general manager for Sun Tan City New England. The second floor has views of the Kennebec River and Old Fort Western, but he said there isn’t a need for 9,000 square feet of downtown commercial space.

A number of prominent Water Street businesses have moved away or closed in recent years in addition to Lipman & Katz, including Stacy’s Hallmark, Gagliano’s Italian Bistro and Kennebec Pediatrics.

Guerrette said he envisions a central co-working space surrounded by private offices, several of which would be considered premium suites because of their size and water views. He expects to have task areas, floating desks, standing desks, a kitchenette, a lounge area and private space for phone calls. The building has Wi-Fi and a gymnasium that would be included in any co-working space agreement.

“Our intent is to let this grow in an organic fashion, and it is a very fluid concept,” he said. “If someone wants something, we’ll get it for them.”

While new to Augusta, it’s not the first co-working office in central Maine.

Gardiner’s CoLab space, at 177 Water St., opened in 2011, and continues to provide affordable workspace. Patrick Wright, the executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said the space’s four private offices are consistently leased and there’s been an uptick in interest in the co-working desk space.

“I see this as a trend that’s not going away,” Wright said. “In the new economy, the new commodity is talent, and what we need to do to attract talent is to provide communities and places where this generation wants to be. The CoLab and co-working spaces in general fit right into that narrative.”

Southern Maine has also seen co-working spaces take off. One of the first, Think Tank, opened in Portland in 2010 and has now expanded to Yarmouth and Biddeford, with more than 200 members.

Think Tank was followed by Peloton Labs, which serves more than 20 members in downtown Portland, according to its website. And in November, a co-working space called Local Host opened in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook, and was more than half full within two months of opening.

The biggest of shared co-working spaces opened in 2015 at Brunswick Landing when TechPlace was launched in a building on the former Navy base. The 70,000-square-foot facility not only makes office amenities available to its members, but there’s manufacturing space for many of the users who are involved in early-stage product development. The facility, which counts 24 tenants, is undergoing a 25,000-square-foot expansion this year.

AUGUSTA PROSPECTS

Guerrette said a political consultant was the first tenant to sign on at Riverview Terrace and he has a couple of leads for several of the other private offices. He’s hoping to have at least the first task area and desks installed by Aug. 1, and the rest of the work will continue as the demand for the space increases.

“We know this is a labor of love, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made right now,” he said.

Co-working memberships will start at $149 per month and private offices with all the amenities are $300 per month or more.

“You can envision why this would be an attractive thing for somebody that didn’t need a full office but would love to have something,” he said.

The idea for the co-working space came when he was watching his children play at an indoor facility in Biddeford, he said. The Biddeford Think Tank co-working space was next door, so Guerrette went over, got some information and became interested.

“I had never really known about the co-working concept until a few months ago,” he said. “I thought it was a fascinating concept, considering how much empty office space we own.”

He hopes is to grow the co-working concept in Augusta over the next several months with the goal of having as many as 50 members by the fall.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or:

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ