Cultivating Community in Southeast PA: Generating Creativity (Part 2 of 2)
Lansdowne Borough is a success story in the making: a small town that has completed several community revitalization projects with support from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Keystone Communities Program. For part two of this story, we followed up with Deborah Brodeur, Executive Director of the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), to get the latest on the community’s newest coworking space Utility Works.
What is Utility Works?
We just opened Utility Works, the area’s first creative coworking space, using a $95,000 grant from DCED to renovate the inside of a vacant building. There’s 7,500 square feet of creative workspace over three floors located in our borough’s business district at 32 E. Baltimore Avenue, which provides the space and inspiration for makers to create with a purpose.
The building has a bit of history to it — it wouldn’t be authentically Pennsylvania if it didn’t, right? To produce the space, we converted an old utility building that was originally built in 1920 into a thriving artist community with a small café, desks for rent, more than 40 studio spaces, open workshop spaces, and private studios.
The idea for this came from four very specific needs: we wanted to provide affordable studio space for artists and creative professionals, renovate and occupy a building that had been vacant more than 10 years, generate a revenue stream for our nonprofit, and jumpstart the revitalization of the downtown area. Thanks to state support, we have officially opened the doors of Utility Works, and we’re experiencing nothing short of success. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re encouraging people to come in and work on their artistic and business-related projects.
Opening up Utility Works serves as a dependable revenue stream to Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation. At LEDC, our goal is to expand economic development in the borough — and we’re proud of the accomplishments we’ve made thus far.
Who works out of Utility Works?
Utility Works is specifically meant to be an affordable studio space for all artists no matter what the medium, whether that’s photography, painting, sculpting, or web design. Our members come from all ages and backgrounds but share one common thread – they are all uniquely creative. We’re honored to live and work in such a diverse community and harbor so much creativity under one roof. Our philosophy is: if you can create it, come create it here with us.
Our co-working space operates similarly to a membership organization. We use a membership-based model that lasts on a month-by-month basis with fees ranging from $100 to $275 depending on the type of space someone needs — there’s no lease to sign and no long-term commitments. Our members receive 24/7 access to their own designated workspace, giving them the autonomy to work on their own schedules. Included in their membership, creators and entrepreneurs have access to various amenities ranging from hi-speed Wi-Fi to an onsite juice bar.
In addition to our workspaces, we have a gallery and retail space that sits on the first floor which can be rented weekly. It’s located just inside the entrance and features huge windows perfect for showcasing work. This feature allows our artists and creatives to show off their work to the community while generating revenue.
Aside from the creative spaces, we offer business-related services as well. Entrepreneurs looking for marketing help, business training and referrals, or similar support can find assistance at Utility Works. We’re doing this through a collaboration with the Widener University Small Business Development Center and other agencies to provide small business classes.
What makes Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation #PAProud?
Living and working in Pennsylvania means living and working in a state where leaders and officials truly care about their residents. We’ve undertaken several revitalization projects, and we couldn’t have enhanced our community and our residents’ lives without the support of DCED and its various funding programs.
On August 22, we were honored to host DCED’s Secretary Dennis Davin for a tour of the state-supported community revitalization projects in Lansdowne, ranging from Utility Works to our residential façade improvements. Being selected for a visit meant being recognized for our work in the community. Having so many stakeholders who believe in your mission and goals is such a commendation, and my coworkers and I proudly come to LEDC every day to continue this growth. Cultivating relationships with DCED, our community business owners, and local residents is the key to our success. We’ve come a long way, and we’re not stopping anytime soon. The change we are seeing in our community is truly remarkable, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with DCED in the years to come.
Visit the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation website to learn more about their work in the community. To learn more about Pennsylvania’s Keystone Communities program visit the DCED website. Continue to stay up-to-date on all Pennsylvania company news by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, or by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter.
Debbie Brodeur spent her entire career in the nonprofit sector working on neighborhood revitalization, commercial and residential development, fundraising, and grant writing. While working for a nonprofit that renovated and flipped homes in Lansdowne, she wrote and eventually implemented the community’s plan and grant for the Elm Street Program. Now, Deborah serves as the Executive Director of the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation.