B:Hive to fill a downtown hole
Downtown Bridgeport, once a business hub home to an array of banks, has seen them replaced in their former buildings by a pool hall, restaurants, comedy club and apartments. The latest change will bring a coworking space from Bijou Square to McLevy Green as B:Hive Bridgeport moves into a larger space in the former Mechanics & Farmers Bank building.
The business signed a three-year lease with Darien-based Forstone Capital, which owns the building, with plans to move in January. The building has been empty for more than a year.
“The time was right for us to expand,” said B:Hive co-founder Luke Scott. “We’re taking our little boutique spot from Fairfield Avenue and moving it into a space that is six times as large.”
Scott and partners Madeline Rhodes, Marcella Kovac and Jordan Rabidou have been providing budding entrepreneurs and others with a space to brainstorm, study and collaborate since 2013, opening as Bridgeport’s first coworking space.
The business is also planning to open another space on the Westport-Fairfield town line along the Post Road next month.
“It will really offer the Bridgeport community of coworkers and entrepreneurs a chance to strut their stuff and really have an incredible location to do so,” Scott said.
The space touts a string of amenities that Scott said their members will enjoy including proximity to public transit as well as the budding entertainment scene in McLevy Square and the rest of downtown.
With the move, B:Hive Bridgeport will gain three conference rooms with a large space Scott referred to as the boardroom. There will also be 20 dedicated desks with work space for members.
“Now we have a legitimate sprawling area that is focused on providing coworkers with a dedicated, modern, amenity-rich desk and place to call home,” he said.
Those amenities also include a full kitchen area. On the second floor, there is a lounge and bar area outside the boardroom space, and two large restrooms.
It’s been more than a year since architectural firm Fletcher Thompson vacated the space about three years after moving into the Mechanics & Farmers building. The firm was evicted for not paying rent and faced a slew of lawsuits from others who said they weren’t paid for services, and the company moved to a new home in Ansonia.
Its departure left a gap that Forstone had sought to fill as further development continued to reshape the square.
“I think their users, which are cutting edge entrepreneurs, fits perfectly into the culture that we are trying to create there which is a dynamic forward-thinking environment, or a mix of uses,” said Brett Wilderman, principal of Forstone Capital. “We couldn’t be happier with the use and the operation of B:Hive. They’ve proven themselves as viable and a successful operator in their field.”
Forstone has leased a series of buildings in this past year with the debut of Harlan Haus beer hall and the Stress Factory comedy club, but there are still spaces left, including the former Board of Education building on Main Street.
Aside from the physical amenities, Scott said the space offers a “feeling of possibility” as he and his partners look to convert the historic building into a new hub for its members.
“There’s this juxtaposition of feeling you should straighten your tie and then getting on the screaming internet and doing something that’s groundbreaking for the future,” he said.