New entrepreneurial hub opens downtown

Jul. 12, 2013 @ 04:53 PM

With brightly painted walls and amenities that include a slide, free arcade game access and a cubby-hole-like meeting room with bean bag chairs, a new office space has opened on Main Street in downtown Durham catering to solo entrepreneurs and two-person start-up teams.

The space, called The Underground@Main Street, opened in 22,000 square feet of renovated space at 201 W. Main St. in June. Start-ups can lease office space and entrepreneurs can lease a single desk as part of a co-working layout. It’s the second space dedicated to entrepreneurs that has been launched by the owner of the American Tobacco, the mixed-use development of renovated tobacco factory buildings downtown.

Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Co. opened its first start-up hub for entrepreneurs in 2010 in the basement of American Tobacco. Initially known as the American Underground, the space has since been re-dubbed The Underground@American Tobacco.

That 26,000-square-foot Underground@American Tobacco space is 95 percent leased, Klein said, and is targeted for five, 10 or 20-person start-up teams. He said they’re trying to attract smaller teams and solo entrepreneurs to their new office space on Main. He pitched the space as a means to help solo entrepreneurs get an edge by giving them a place where they can court investors or bring clients, and also as a place where they can mix and mingle with other entrepreneurs.

Capitol Broadcasting, which also owns the Durham Bulls and WRAL-TV, invested private dollars in the renovation of the new space, which it leases from Durham-based Self-Help. The space previously housed a nonprofit group and, at one time, was used as a bank branch, Klein said.

While all of the office space is leased in Underground@Main, all of the desks in the co-working space are not. Klein said there is enough desk space for 55 people in the co-working space. In total, he said, they have 40 companies located in the new space.

Klein said they’re charging $199 per month to lease desk space, and they also have a college rate of $79 per month. That includes furniture, as well as Internet, conference room and building access 24 hours a day, seven days week.

Capitol Broadcasting’s start-up hubs are not the only downtown office spaces for entrepreneurs. Bull City Co-working opened on Duke Street in June of last year, offering space for solo entrepreneurs and freelancers. Another space called Mercury Studios is open on North Mangum with co-working space for artists.

Klein said that with the number of start-ups and entrepreneurs downtown, which he estimated at approximately 100, the “pie is large enough” for all of the different entrepreneurial hubs that have popped up.

“I think we’ve got a lot of momentum in promoting downtown as a start-up hub,” Klein said, adding that he believes entrepreneurs are an important piece of the city’s economic development strategy. He said they can help create jobs as their companies grow and can help keep university graduates in the region.

A grand opening event for the new space will be held Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. with food, drinks and entertainment. Klein said several hundred people are expected to attend. The event is open to the public, but registration is required at americanunderground.eventbrite.com.