Spark Louisville will be fashioned after Spark Baltimore, which opened last year. | Courtesy of The Cordish Cos.

People will go from werkin’ it in two Fourth Street Live bars to working in a new co-working space for startups next year.

The Cordish Cos., which owns Fourth Street Live, will invest $1.5 million to transform bars Tango Cantina and Marquee into a 20,000-square-foot co-working space called Spark Louisville, Fourth Street Live executive director Ed Hartless told Insider. It’s set to open sometime in 2018.

The space will include a conference and meeting rooms, multiple event spaces, lounge areas, a shared kitchen, a coffee and craft beer bar, high-speed internet, mail service and indoor bike storage. Entrepreneurs can rent a single desk or office space for anywhere from $100 a month to $2,000 a month.

“It’s still very economical,” Hartless said. “It’s a lot less than the $15 to $20 per square foot you would have to pay to lease space in any of the towers.”

Spark Louisville is a co-working space, not an incubator.

“It is going to be more of a space for people who are through the incubator stage,” Hartless said. “It gives them a workspace where they can collaborate.”

Ed Hartless | Courtesy of Fourth Street Live

Co-working spaces provide a more affordable option for small business owners who share amenities with other entrepreneurs; businesses can stay in the for-profit co-working spaces for as long as they pay their monthly fees. Incubators are typically run by nonprofits, have a time limit on how long businesses can stay and offer business development learning opportunities for members.

Spark Louisville is an expansion of Spark Baltimore at The Cordish Cos.’s development at Inner Harbor. The company started Spark Baltimore in 2016 with plans to open similar operations in other cities.

Just more than a year later, the co-working space in Baltimore is 40,000 square feet and has 94 companies operating there, Shervonne Cherry, community manager for Spark Baltimore, told Insider. There are 12 industries represented there.

Cherry said some companies at Spark Baltimore had grown but wanted to remain in the space, so they expanded. She also noticed that different startups that had been at Spark Baltimore longer started connecting and creating partnerships with the more fledgling companies.

“The new water cooler is the coffee bar or the shuffleboard table,” she said.

The number of startups operating out of Spark Louisville will depend on the space that each business requires, Hartless said, noting that like Spark Baltimore, it could expand its presence at Fourth Street Live in the future.

In addition to the physical co-working space, Spark Louisville will offer entrepreneurs “virtual memberships” or “mailbox only memberships,” both of which don’t give them access to the co-working space but do allow members to attend private lunches and learn or networking events held throughout the year. The mailbox membership also lets startups rent a mailbox at Spark Louisville for business use.

Fourth Street Live opened in Louisville in the early 2000s as an entertainment district lined with bars and restaurants, and locally, it has become known as a place for tourists. However, The Cordish Cos. started rebranding a couple of years ago, pitching itself as a place for locals and families, not just out-of-town partiers.

Spark Louisville is just the next evolution, Hartless said. “We are still going to be an entertainment district, but this kind of gives people the opportunity to live, work and play all downtown.”

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]