augusta free press news

Staunton Innovation Hub celebrates renovations milestone

By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press

Staunton Innovation Hub
The Staunton Innovation Hub celebrated a ribbon cutting Thursday night at 11 North Central Avenue for completion of renovations. Photo by Rebecca Barnabi.

STAUNTON — Despite budget shortfalls, a downtown flood, a global pandemic and supply shortages, renovations of the Staunton Innovation Hub are complete.

Home to 84 businesses and entrepreneurs at 32 N. Augusta Street and 11 N. Central Avenue, the Hub opened in April 2018, and on Thursday celebrated a ribbon cutting.

Thursday’s celebration, however, was not about the Hub opening the renovated 11 N. Central Avenue building.

“It’s about the building being open [for the community],” said Peter Denbigh, co-founder of the Hub.

According to Denbigh, more plans are ahead to complete the original vision of the Hub.

“With any business, you’re never done. There’s always more you can do,” he said.

The Hub is 30,000 square feet of conference rooms, desks and office space for business owners and entrepreneurs in a 100-year-old building. With fundraising efforts, the Hub will have a backyard plaza next year.

“This turned into a much bigger project than we anticipated,” Peter Denbigh said.

The Hub’s monthly membership rate of $97 for co-working space, $20 for a day pass, and $216 a month for a dedicated desk provides members with access to a gym, WiFi, networking and social events, a game room, printing privileges, conference room access, phone booth access, complimentary coffee and access to an audio/video room.

Denbigh said the AV room is equipped with camera, green, white and black screens, and ready for members to record podcasts.

“It speeds it up. It’s a barrier we’re reducing. Our mission is to reduce barriers to innovation,” Denbigh said.

Hannah Cooper, the Hub’s director, said memberships are on a month to month, no contract basis. A dedicated desk allows a member private space and a locked cabinet, and opportunities to collaborate with other members.

“Think private office, no walls,” said Cooper.

Private offices are also available.

Academic memberships are available for students 18 years old and older, teachers and professors.

“Lots of different options, and most of them are flexible,” Cooper said.

Budget challenges, the Aug. 8, 2020 flood in downtown and supply shortages did not make renovations of the building at 11 N. Central Avenue any easier.

“It was a renovation project of an historic building in downtown,” said co-founder Alison Denbigh.

While flood waters did not enter the building, Denbigh said that part of the building’s roof was open which allowed rain in and damage to dry wall.

“You budget for the worst, but you never know what the worst is,” she said.

Due to the building’s historic status, funding had to go through historical tax credits, which created additional challenges.

But the community support made the project a success. Denbigh said that Fraser & Associates and Mathers Construction put in more hours than anticipated.

“I really feel for a lot of our partners. This was a philanthropic project,” she said.

Between architecture, construction and finance, Denbigh said “it took a community for us to even get the doors open.” And partnering with local companies was important “because they have more passion going into these projects.”

“It wasn’t about the building. It was about the community we wanted to put in it,” Denbigh said.

And the Hub will continue to grow with the backyard plaza. Denbighs hope to host dancing and movie nights for the community on weekends. As the community becomes comfortable visiting during such events, “that’s just the gateway for them to say ‘what is the Hub?’” Denbigh said.

Before the Hub, Denbigh said she did not think of herself as an entrepreneur, and many individuals do not think they are capable of entrepreneurship. But anyone can come to the Hub with an idea, network with others and share ideas, and, with the resources available at the Hub, make an idea become reality.

“We’re here. We know every business needs marketing, every business needs accounting, a lawyer,” she said.

And these resources are available at the Hub. If not in the Hub, resources can be found outside the Hub in the Staunton community.