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Long abandoned Boulder building to house businesses and a community
The Mountain iJournals

Long abandoned Boulder building to house businesses and a community

Photo Courtesy Philip Wegener,
Photo Courtesy Philip Wegener,
BOULDER—For months now Christian Macy and Richard Moser have been working, full time, to fill a long-neglected building in downtown Boulder with a community. Construction for three businesses in the building has been ongoing since summer – some of it by volunteers who are enthusiastic about the project.

You know the building, even if you can't picture it right now. Where Broadway and Boulder Creek meet is a three story brick structure beside an outdoor, creek-side patio that's complete with concrete tables. Built to be a candy shop in the early 20th century, the building has since housed an architect, a photography studio, a few pubs and even a disco. Most recently, however, it's been empty – but that's changing.

Now named The Riverside, this building will house three businesses: Fuse, a coworking space; Bite, a restaurant, cafe and co-op; and Agora, an event center. These businesses, while under one corporate structure and physical roof, will also be independent while focused on creating a single community.

"The concept is to enable people to live their lives more intentionally by enabling them to focus on the things they really care about," says Macy, who describes the project as a Life Accelerator. "If you provide all of those things, people can self-actualize."

It's a grand vision, somewhat removed from the reality of renovating an empty building and trying to build a viable business model around it. But that's how Macy speaks about The Riverside – as an ideal and as a community.

And it's hard to ignore his passion.

"I've been focused entirely on this since I quit my job in December 2011," he says. And it's not just him. A community is already forming: 50 volunteers pitched in to remove flooring from Washington School for the building.

"A lot of people are volunteering because they believe that the building is worth more than it's been treated," says Macy. "It's been sitting empty. This has the potential to be a very important space for Boulder, and that's what this is specifically being built for. To us it's the opportunity to create much more value than collecting money."

The Riverside will, however, need to make money in order to remain open.

"It's an expensive, expensive building to be a part of," says Macy.

There are revenue plans in place already. Fuse, the coworking space, offers membership for $300 a month. Members get access to desks upstairs and (eventually) downstairs, as well as to a library, 24/7.

The completed space on the main floor is available for events right now through Agora.

Bite won't be open for a while – construction's still underway. Even with work being done, however, the building is already regularly in use.

The company is hosting events, including a talk with TechStars co-founder and Foundry managing director Brad Feld on Monday.

"There's a really big focus for me on trying to build community, and sharing knowledge is a huge part of that," says Macy. "The people who want to be a member of this community...these events will resonate with them."

For now the project is still underway – construction won't be over for months. But Macy thinks the community will grow "on a logarithmic scale" as the end of construction approaches.

"We keep building our community, finishing up the space," he says. "The cafe is going to open, not using the full kitchen. Once we have the kitchen up and running then we can start serving food that we made in the cafe."

It's hard work. Following dreams usually is, Macy says.

"The vision is easy," says Macy. "It's always easy to dream. Implementing that dream is pretty hard."

And dreams evolve when they meet reality, he says.

"Recognizing your dream once it's been implemented and it looks nothing like what you've envisioned...that's the hardest part."

Macy, who has a family "and a lot of debt now," considers this past year worthwhile regardless of what happens next.

"The last year has been more inspirational to my life than anything – I feel like I've had a lifetime in that year," he says. "When you believe in something it doesn't matter. You have to be willing to take that risk."
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