The former Coventry School will soon have a new tenant.
The approved a conditional use permit for in the old elementary school at its meeting Wednesday night.
Founder Andrew Auten wants to provide a coworking environment and professional office space for people who normally work from home or coffee shops.
“Hey, I love Phoenix ... but at the same time it’s not always that conducive to producing. We want to provide a work space that’s larger than a café table and has a reliable, secure wi-fi connection,” Auten said. “That’s what we want to offer — a third space that’s not (the coffee shop) and not your home.”
The approved a lease for 4,000 square feet at $2,167 per month , as the district still owns the school. But a requires that the company also be granted a conditional use permit, which spells out rules and guidelines for using the old elementary school.
In August, Cleveland Heights City Council that allows more types of industries to use vacant buildings in residential districts such as churches, libraries and the former Coventry School, which allowed The Open Office to be considered.
Auten said his company will offer about 10 cubicles, a large, open work space that can accommodate 20 people or more at big library tables, two conference rooms for meetings of 10 to 12 people, and three smaller rooms for two to four people.
Event space will also be offered for as many as 100 people.
Printers, scanners and fax machines will be available, and there will be phones in the conference rooms. Coffee, sandwiches and pastries from and will also be on sale. And people can rent lockers to store their belongings.
"This is going to be our first location. I did a lot of building hunting and location scouting for the last 12 months, and we just have always liked Cleveland Heights, and in particular, we like Coventry," Auten said. "There’s just a lot of people who work from their homes in the area, too."
In a proposal Auten sent to the City of Cleveland Heights, he wrote, "Two cities that stand out are Cleveland Heights with 1,050 and Shaker Heights with 787 self-employed entrepreneurs. The Cuyahoga County has over 14,000 solo-entrepreneurs. The Open Office will focus on self-employed professionals in business and finance, computer and mathematics, security, arts, design and media fields."
Consultants in a variety of industries who work out of their home, freelancers and accountants have expressed interest in the space, he said.
"We really want to be a great service for people who are in that one- to two-person office or have struck out by themselves," he said.
Auten said the soft launch of his company will be sometime in mid-February, and it will officially open in March.
Parking and security were the primary concerns of the commission and the handful of residents who attended the meeting Wednesday. They don't want Washington Boulevard and nearby streets to become crowded and congested with cars, and tenants in the school have seen people loitering nearby.
Auten said his company will get six spaces in the lot off of Washington Boulevard, and he plans to lease 25 to 30 spaces in the lot across the street, known as City Lot #20. Kara Hamley O'Donnell, historic preservation planner, also noted that there is a three-hour limit on street parking so people don't park there all day.
In addition, the city will consider moving the crosswalk on Euclid Heights Boulevard or installing a new one closer to the parking lot and the school so it's easier to cross there.
Bryan Loretz, coordinator of safety and security for the CH-UH District, said he sent a letter to Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson asking that his staff regularly patrol the building. The property also has security cameras and new lighting.
Steve Presser, owner of and marketing director for the Coventry Village Special Improvement District, wrote a letter to Howard Thompson, economic development director for the city, and expressed the district's support of this decision.
"The Open Office fits in quite nicely with the needs of the nearby community and also beyond, with small home businesses cropping up all over the place," Presser wrote.
The Open Office will offer part-time (five or 10 days a month), full-time and "dedicated desk" memberships as well as conference room rentals. The capacity is 150 members, but Auten imagines that no more than 40 people will work there at any given time.
The company will start selling the memberships, which range from $45 to $250 a month, at the end of January on its website, www.theopenoffice.net.
Two to three part-time employees will man the reception area, manage the space, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., stock coffee, prepare conference rooms and other tasks, he said. In addition, Auten will help manage the entire operations of Coventry School and make sure big events from the other tenants — , , and — don't conflict.
Thompson said The Open Office will contribute to the synergy he hopes to foster in the building. For example, parents who work at The Open Office could drop off their children at the Cleveland Sight Center daycare or at a writing workshop at Lake Erie Ink.
Cleveland Heights resident Matt Laferty, who attended the Planning Commission meeting, said he hopes The Open Office brings more professionals to the area who want to shop and dine in Coventry Village.
"I support any and all businesses that bring people to my neighborhood ... those businesses and that neighborhood are why we moved here."