By Kaylee Lindenmuth
At one time, it was the civic hub of Kutztown, serving as the borough hall, fire company, library, YMCA and more. Soon, it will be alive with activity once again thanks to the vision of a local couple.
A few blocks from KU, at 277 Fair St., stands the former Kutztown borough hall, with its distant clocktower-esque structure visible from parts of North Campus. Built in 1915, the building began as the borough hall and Kutztown Fire Company. Most recently, it housed Berkleigh Computer Systems.
In March, the building sold at auction to Anne and Nick Timpe, who are in the process of renovating the building to house a co-working and office space on the first floor and living space for their family on the second.
“It’s a shared workspace,” Anne Timpe said of the co-working space concept. “Instead of renting out offices, we rent out desk memberships. You can come and have a quiet place to work, or small businesses that don’t need the overhead can have access to some amenities.”
Timpe said the renovations are primarily to bring the building up to code, and they intend to preserve as many historical details as possible.
“We’re not moving walls or changing structure or anything like that. It’s a really neat building,” said Anne Timpe. “Updating to code, adding HVAC, updating plumbing, and putting in a kitchen downstairs for the co-working space.”
The idea to buy and renovate the building, she said, came from her husband’s search for a new space for his small business, a software company, which is currently located in a three-room office in Fleetwood.
“It’s really expensive to rent in Kutztown, even for commercial space, so when we saw this, and we toured the upstairs, I thought ‘I want to live here. This is such a beautiful building,’” Anne Timpe said. “We have a daughter and a son on the way, and we don’t need all this space, so how do we make this work? We came up with the idea of a co-working space because he travels a lot and uses co-working spaces with his business.”
The co-working space will be an open-concept, Anne Timpe said, including desks, tables, a kitchen, lounge area and “pods,” like phone booths, for private phone calls. The building is set back from Main St. by a few blocks, which Anne Timpe said is a benefit.
As said before, the building was used as the borough hall, Kutztown Fire Company and Berkleigh Computer Systems, but it was also used as the Kutztown Library, the Y, a church and a hospital, Anne Timpe said.
“One of my favorite parts of the history is that the upstairs was used as an emergency hospital during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic,” Anne Timpe added. “We have a picture of beds being set up in here. It’s really neat.”
The building has remains of each use, some of which Anne Timpe pointed out during a walkthrough: remnants of a fire pole, oil stains on the wood floor of the former engine room and “Council Chambers” printed on a door on the second floor.
Anne Timpe said they’ve been working with the Kutztown Community Partnership, Northern Berks Chamber of Commerce and the KU Small Business Development Center. She hopes the space will provide a community atmosphere and networking benefits.
“You gain a lot working from home and being a small business, but you don’t have that comradery with officemates or picking up skills and information or knowing other people unless they’re in your circle,” said Anne Timpe. “We really hope this is a good way for businesses to connect.”
She also sees benefits for the KU community saying she’s met with university officials and has tossed around the idea of internships.
“We’re hoping that it would be a good resource for KU because students that are interested in business and want business internships can help us or our clients out, and [it may] be an opportunity to connect with businesses that might need interns or [get] jobs,” Anne Timpe said.
Anne Timpe also said they plan to offer co-working memberships for students.
“What we’ve discussed is doing it in a way that a group of students can share a membership,” said Anne Timpe. “Maybe you just need to get off campus, or your roommate is really loud, or you just need a quiet place to work, that’s something that’s in progress.”
She said they hope the facility is ready to open by mid-October. Painters and other contractors were at work during the interview and walkthrough.