When Sarah Daly, Executive Director of Creative Spark, first floated the idea of creating a coworking center in the city center two years ago, she did not imagine a world where work outside the office would become the norm.
At the time, the demand for equipment offered by a coworking hub came mainly from freelancers and entrepreneurs who occasionally needed office space.
The idea of creating a hub in Clanbrassil Street was to help bring people together in a collaborative environment where they could share ideas and experiences and also to help in the regeneration of the town centre.
Today, thanks to the pandemic, employers and employees have realized that people can work anywhere once they have a comfortable desk and a good internet connection.
So the timing couldn’t have been better for Creative Spark Downtown, which opens its doors this week in Cumiskey’s former music and nursery store, Clanbrassil Street.
The city center premises have been completely refurbished to provide a state-of-the-art working environment, designed by interior designer Grainne O’Neill, who is based at Creative Spark in Clontygora, Muirhevanmor.
Ciara Breen, co-working hub manager, says there are 42 workstations that can be booked by the month or even by the half-day, depending on the needs of those using them.
“We will have a monthly fee and those who take a monthly subscription will have access to the premises 24/7 after an initial period.”
The hub has a brightly lit common area overlooking the street. This includes reception and tea/coffee making facilities, as well as seating to relax.
Behind this there is an attractive open plan office space spread over two floors, with some of the original brick walls of the old building.
Privacy pods on each floor provide facilities for making confidential phone or Zoom calls.
The hub also has a meeting room and a fully equipped studio for podcasting, which will be available for an hourly fee.
The building has air conditioning and an air filtration system, with screens between desks, ensuring it adheres to COVID-19 best practices.
“There has already been a lot of interest in the hub,” says Ciara. This has come from people working in their own micro-businesses to remote workers.
With many companies embracing hybrid working, with employees splitting their workweek between the office and home, the hub seems to come into its own, giving people a space where they can work without any distractions.
Ciara says they are eager to encourage a collaborative environment, where people with diverse experiences can share skills and ideas.
“We have the potential to have skilled workers coming together and sharing ideas. It will be great for people starting their own business and we would love to see people working together on projects and businesses.
There are also plans to bring in speakers for monthly “lunch and learn sessions” and members will be kept informed of any events taking place locally or nationally.
“It’s important for us to look at the social side of work because people have missed it when working from home.”
Creative Spark Downtown is part of a nationwide network of remote work centers, many of which have sprung up since the pandemic began. This includes hubs at The Mill, Drogheda and Ardee Business Park.
“There are around 200 connected hubs in Ireland. We have also seen hubs popping up in rural areas and these have been very important in supporting people who might previously have worked in Dublin.
Ciara is also involved with Grow Remote Dundalk, part of a national network that aims to promote and support remote working.
Although the benefits of the coworking center for users are obvious, it also has the potential to bring huge benefits to the surrounding region.
“We have the potential to have 44 people working here to support surrounding businesses. People will come for coffee, lunch or shopping. That should really increase footfall in this part of town.”
Anyone wishing to book an office at Creative Spark Downtown can do so via www.connectedhubs.ie