WOODSTOCK – The city will move forward with a feasibility study on a co-working space at the historic Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House in downtown Woodstock.
Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies will complete the first phase of the study for about $9,000.
The city is exploring grants to pay for the study, and it also will use at least $5,000 from its strategic plan and marketing services fund.
Money from the Old Courthouse account in the tax increment financing district fund also might be accessed, according to city documents.
The Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House Advisory Commission discussed the matter and voted against it in February, but later reversed the recommendation in July.
Officials only have approved moving forward with the first phase of the study, which is meant to explore whether a co-working space would be viable in the building.
Co-working spaces are places where entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners can gather to use shared equipment – such as printers, fax machines and wireless internet – as well as brainstorm with each other, hold meetings and work in a quieter space than somewhere such as a coffee shop.
The city has piloted a co-working program each Monday at Stage Left Cafe in Woodstock, which has garnered weekly users and a Facebook member group of about 90 people.
The three-phase feasibility study could cost $29,000 in total, but the city only has committed to the first phase.
Dennis Sandquist, chairman of the advisory commission, said the effort to determine a use for the property has been a labor-intensive project, but the co-working space might be a good plan.
“It’s been a frustrating project. It’s been a project that’s moving forward in fits and starts,” he said. “It’s been one of exploring ideas. [Co-working] is certainly an emerging area of economic development and a way of building the local economy.”
City Council members voted to approve the project, with only Jim Prindiville voting against it.
“The idea of this co-work space is best left to the private sector,” Prindiville said. “It’s important for us to focus on what best serves the community and what best merits government involvement. This project is really focusing on something the private sector is well-equipped to do.”