By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
Belleville native Ashley Kallman and her husband Clay Close believe there’s two lessons from the pandemic.
One, people learned they can be productive workers from remote locations.
Two, people still yearn to interact and share ideas with other people.
That’s the target audience for Kallman Office Suites, a co-working space the couple plans to create on the west side of the square in downtown Belleville in a former pharmacy building. The renovation is expected to be complete in mid-2021 and will include individual office space and shared amenities like internet, a kitchen and conference room.
“I think there’s people working at home now who have found it’s not as convenient as they thought,” said Close. “I find if I’m working in an office, I get more done.
“Co-working is bringing your community to one spot where everyone can work together.”
Along with permanent tenants, the couple will offer flexible space for workers who need office space and amenities for a day, week or month. They plan to create nine offices on the main floor, along with a conference room and kitchen area. They will reserve two offices for themselves on the upper floor.
Kallman and Close didn’t have to look far for successful models of the concept they envision for Belleville. Kallman’s uncle, Paul Kallman, owns buildings in Scandia and has seven offices rented out, Close said. The couple also point to Courtland Coworking, a venture by Jenny Russell and Troy Newman that opened last year and already provides workspace for 13 people in multiple businesses.
They believe the office space in Belleville can accommodate up to 20 workers. “If 20 people are working downtown, that’s 20 more people to create activity downtown,” Close says. “Collaboration is huge. I don’t think people realize how much they liked going to a co-workers office to bounce off ideas.”
Close says Belleville lacks business space for new professionals who don’t want to build or buy their own building.
The couple lives in East Brunswick NJ, outside of New York City. Kallman is an online nutrition coach and personal trainer, and Close is a finance broker.
“We had been looking for a way to connect back to Belleville,” says Kallman. “Growing up in Belleville was such a great small-town experience. I felt like preserving a building would be important to the town.”
When Belleville Chamber and Main Street director Waylon Sheetz proposed a co-working space for the building, Kallman and Close immediately saw the potential, they say.
Demolition has started on the interior of the building. Kallman says that concept work on completed by a Chamber intern in Belleville this summer sponsored by the Dane Hansen Foundation is the launch point for the interior remodel.
“The building itself is structurally good,” she says. The space was once three separate downtown buildings. “We want to restore what’s there, including the original 100-year-old tile floor, hardwood floors, tin ceilings,” she says.
“We’ll blend the industrial character with modern elements, restoring as much as possible.”