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Fort Builder launches new Downtown Boise co-working space

A new co-working space is headed to downtown Boise.

Russ Stoddard, the founder of advertising agency Oliver Russell & Associates, is teaming up with Collister co-working space owner Amber Lawless to turn the first floor of his 11th Street building into a flexible office space. It can host startups, remote workers, and entrepreneurs hoping to launch their own company, with the opportunity for mentorship from Stoddard.

It joins a raft of other co-working options in Downtown Boise, including Trailhead, Trailhead North, Wheelhouse, Office Evolution and Regus.

[Who needs 40 hours a week? Local tech company gives workers option to work part-time]

No business casual required

Lawless is still in the midst of designing the space, but she said it has several members already, spanning from an environmental sustainability startup to a content creator who makes Youtube and TikTok videos about instilling open-mindedness in children. She said as the world moves out of the pandemic there is a growing demand for spaces where people can work outside of their home, but still get the social interaction you might get at a traditional office.

Only, this format doesn’t require professional dress or the rigid norms of office life.

“We’ve designed the property for the idea that we create ultimate flexibility,” Lawless said, looking over the new co-work space. “Companies don’t know what they need yet. There was a big Inc magazine article that came out a while ago that said a big percentage of workers said they would quit if they were forced to go back to the office so all these companies big and small are trying to figure out a way to get their teams together in a way that is helpful and collaborative, but not rent a whole floor of building they won’t use.”

The interior of the new Fort Builder downtown location. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

Membership at Ford Builder includes access to the coworking space, snacks, coffee, and potential networking with other members. Depending on the future of other tenants in the 11th Street building, Lawless is planning a possible “quiet room” with comfortable chairs and desks for working, or napping, in addition to the larger room on the first floor for more social work projects, like Zoom calls.

Users can choose from a variety of payment options, ranging from a $20 pass for a certain number of uses over three months, to $400 per month for access to one of the building’s shared private offices.

Office space to co-work space

This collaboration arose when Stoddard, a resident of the Collister neighborhood, came to tour Lawless’ recently opened State Street co-work and event space, called Fort Builder. He was impressed with her vision of a community space for work and events and hinted several times he was wondering about the future of his 11th Street building while his employees moved to remote work permanently.

Later that night, Lawless sent him an email proposing they work together on a downtown Fort Builder location and the meetings began. She said expanding to a second location only months after launching her first project would have made her nervous with any other partner, but Lawless said Stoddard’s vision for improving Boise and building a business ecosystem inspired her.

Interior of the Fort Builder downtown location. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

Stoddard, who launched one of Idaho’s first Certified B Corps, will be available to work with aspiring and recently certified companies, several of which are already Fort Builder members.

“It’s been a dream of mine to turn this amazing building into a coworking space — and with new working dynamics post-pandemic, the time is right.” Stoddard said in a press release. “And with Fort Builder facilitating these workspaces, it provides the opportunity to open this building and the minds within it to benefit the community in lasting ways.”

More than just a desk

Fort Builder also hosts a range of events, like concerts, candle-making workshops, panel discussions, book clubs and other community gatherings. Lawless said she hopes to launch drop-in childcare so single parents can attend and she wants to make as many events free as possible.

“The world feels so transactional,” Lawless said. “It feels like if you want to do something you have to go and pay money and we really want to fight against that. We’re going to have free spots in almost everything we do so if you can’t afford to buy the ticket, go ahead and take the free spot.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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