This spring, downtown Lee’s Summit will become home to Bridge Space.
Established in one of the city’s former U.S. post offices, Bridge Space — a new coworking, event and meeting facility located at 210 S.W. Market St. — will host collaborations for hundreds of entrepreneurs in new business ventures, partnerships, education, and training.
Specifically designed to support entrepreneurs working downtown, the Bridge Space plan incorporates individual offices, meeting, seminar, and event spaces, an outdoor event patio, a recording studio for podcasters, and abundant coworking spaces.
Coworking is a 21st-century style of work that involves a shared work environment, utilizing open spaces that invite collaboration. Often appealing to those who work independently or from home, coworking not only lessens the isolation of working alone, but can generate a synergy and connection between those working alongside each other.
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“Bridge Space is a facility to help entrepreneurs be more successful and connect with each other and the greater business community throughout Kansas City,” said Ben Rao, founder of Bridge Space.
A tech and real estate entrepreneur for the past 20 years, Rao knows firsthand the many special professional needs and requirements it takes to succeed in a new business venture. He sold his national real-estate company in 2016, so that he could follow his vision for Bridge Space and make a personal contribution to the city of Lee’s Summit and its entrepreneurs.
“Lee’s Summit is my home,” Rao said. “My family’s roots are here, and I wanted to give back to this city and its business community in a meaningful way. But, I’ve needed help from the community to make Bridge Space a reality.”
During the past several months, the community has contributed to Rao’s vision through several avenues. The city of Lee’s Summit approved a property tax abatement for the building, Summit Bank of Lee’s Summit provided a construction loan, and an historic tax-preservation credit is pending through the Lee’s Summit Historic Tax Preservation Program.
“This project would not have made sense or been possible without the support of the community and businesses here,” Rao said.
Every square foot of the Bridge Space design is dedicated to entrepreneurs, their work, and their synergy. The Bridge Space mission is also focused on building networking and community throughout Lee’s Summit and the wider metropolitan area.
Along with supporting individual entrepreneurs, Rao foresees Bridge Space being utilized for a wide variety of events, such as shark tanks and hackathons. Hackathons are multi-day events in which computer programmers, graphic and interface designers, project managers, and subject-matter experts come together as a team to engage in intensive computer programming or software projects.
“We’ll also host reverse pitches where established companies pitch their problems to entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurs help them find solutions,” Rao said. “Or maybe someone will simply be developing an app and find another entrepreneur they can collaborate with who is working in the space.”
Office partitions and furniture will be mobile, and conference rooms will expand to accommodate the unique requirements of groups or projects. A coffee shop, open to the public, will be located in the front of the facility.
Bridge Space hopes to offer short- and long-term potential benefits that can reach deep into the Lee’s Summit community and positively impact growth. By incubating businesses downtown, people will potentially relocate, purchase homes, and support existing and future businesses, Rao said.
Repurposing for its larger purpose, the project will not only call a former post office home, but many of its interior building materials and furnishings have been purchased and appropriated from other structures throughout Kansas City. In addition, Bridge Space plans to source solar power for at least 50 percent of its energy.
Built in 1962 and purchased for the project nine months ago, the former post office building being transformed into Bridge Space is 12,400 square feet, with an additional 800 square-foot dock that will be remodeled into an outdoor event space.
During the past several months, Rao and his team have been working to bring the building back to its original design, such as exposing a hand-cut stone wall, banks of windows, and more.
For some of the project’s interior furnishings, doors from the former Lee’s Summit Hospital will be repurposed into desks, recycled wood from a former bowling alley lane will become a conference room table, and 1970s tables and chairs from the Kansas City (Mo.) School District will furnish meeting rooms.
It’s an attempt to repurpose the past in an effort to lay a new foundation for future entrepreneurs.
According to Rao, Bridge Space is a generalist facility and will welcome entrepreneurs from technology to consulting, and from film and music to digital marketing. Entrepreneurs will hold memberships to Bridge Space and be given key fobs to the building. The space will have security and be open 24 hours a day to those who find night hours to be their most prolific invention time.