Having tested the feasibility of a coworking space in Fernie and having raised enough funding to get the project started, the search began in the summer of 2019 to find a location. The Fernie Chamber established a task force to help staff with the ambitious goal of securing a location and opening the space.
The team was rounded out by local community builders who were passionate about the project including William McClounie, Robyn Peel, and former Community Manager at Ground Floor Coworking Tanya Malcolm.
Commercial space in Fernie (especially in the downtown core) was at a premium in 2019 as search for suitable places commenced, and we knew it would be challenging to secure the perfect location.
After diligently following up on a handful of options that were available, we were approached by the then Publisher of the Fernie Free Press newspaper, Jennifer Cronin. It turned out that their parent company had decided that the building the Free Press were in was too big these days for their needs – with all production of the newspaper happening offsite. The Free Press were looking to move to a new space and wondered if we had found anything that we were not interested in that may suit them.
The task force quickly jumped at the chance to inspect the Fernie Free Press office space as a potential candidate for the new coworking space. They were immediately struck by the potential of the building. The Fernie Free Press newspaper was established in 1899 and had called this building at 342 2nd Avenue home since 1908. The history of the town literally filled the space with newspapers stacked everywhere in the basement alongside old printing press equipment from the late 19th century. One newspaper laying open on a table during our first walkthrough of the space was from 1907. If these walls could talk…
As the Fernie Chamber became more interested in the building, another idea was also starting to come together – the Fernie Free Press could stay in their historic home as an anchor tenant of the new coworking space. It would be a win/win situation – the Fernie Chamber would get an amazing space and the security of a permanent anchor tenant, while the Free Press could stay where they are yet pay less rent by taking up less space in the building.
The Fernie Chamber of Commerce signed the lease agreement to take over the building in February 2020, and a subsequent sublease agreement was made with the Fernie Free Press.
Nobody knew that just around the corner lay an unprecedented global pandemic that would have a huge impact on people globally and throw a serious wrench in this little dream of a community downtown coworking space in Fernie, BC. But for now we had a location, and the future was bright!