LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville’s biggest landlord for traditional office space is getting into the co-working game.

The Al J. Schneider Co., owner of hotels like the Galt House and office buildings, is putting the finishing touches on a space called “Co11ab” on the 11th floor of the middle tower at its Waterfront Plaza complex at 323 W. Main Street.

Billed as “a modern urban design offering our users the opportunity to escape working from home,” the 7,800-square-foot space offers people the ability to rent a desk, a room or a group of rooms.

Monthly memberships to the co-work space range from $250 to $750, depending on whether the rent is for access to the floor, a dedicated desk or a private office. People can pay for as little as a single day of access, starting at $20.

For Al J. Schneider Co., which owns more than 1 million square feet of commercial space downtown, Co11ab represents a dip of the toe into a new way to market office space.

It’s also a bet that mobile office workers still need a place to go, as free options like Starbucks two blocks away from Co11ab are no longer open.

“This is a tester for us,” said Scott Shoenberger, the Al J. Schneider Co. CEO. “… This gives us an opportunity to create a footprint and try it and see what works and what doesn't, because your customer is going to tell you what's right.”

The company’s foray into co-working comes at a time of significant vacancy in Louisville’s traditional downtown office space. Before the recent remodeling, the 11th floor of Waterfront Plaza’s center tower was vacant for about three years following a shuffle of Louisville-based Humana’s leased office space.

The 15-story building is about a third occupied, though Shoenberger said the company has new tenants in the works, and the coworking space may help attract traditional tenants to other floors. If the model works, more of the building could be converted to coworking space, he said.

Bill Saffran, director commercial real estate for Al J. Schneider Co., said the space could cater to startup businesses that employ only a few people, independent attorneys who ditched their office space during the pandemic or corporate employees who need a space to meet or collaborate with a group.

The space could comfortably fit 60 to 65 people at the same time, he said.

“There’s a lot of people out there right now that have been working from home. They’ve left their offices (and) some of those offices won't come back,” Saffran said. “… So now they have an option to come to a space like this.”

Saffran said the space offers some nontraditional selling points, such as not having to work about supplying furniture or paying a utility bill. It has nearly sound-proof phone booths for private calls and conference rooms for Zoom meetings, in addition to a kitchen and a shuffle board table.   

Co11ab has not yet signed a tenant, as the company just finished outfitting the space after a delay during the pandemic, Saffran said.

Co-working is not new to Louisville.

Story Louisville, a co-working and event rental business based on at the Center by SIDIS at 900 E. Main Street, started in 2019 primarily as a space for entrepreneurs and freelancers, said director of operations Lauren VanCleave.

As the pandemic wanes, Story Louisville has also become a home for corporate workers and others at established businesses who no longer have traditional office space.

“What we are finding here is that coworking has become really a wonderful alternative for those that became remote workers during COVID,” VanCleave said. “This gives those workers a sense of community, a sense of what a normal work day looks like.”

An expansion into Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood didn’t pan out, but Story Louisville maintains about 175 members for its roughly 12,500 square feet of co-working space on two floors at 900 E. Main Street, she said. On a typical day, about 40 people are in the building.

“Working from home is great until it’s not,” VanCleave said. “Now that people have gone completely remote, the pendulum is starting to swing back a little bit.”

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.