Plantory expanding office space for community businesses and nonprofits

ctruman@herald-leader.comMay 25, 2014 

  • The Plantory

    What: Co-working space for community-oriented businesses and nonprofits.

    Where: 560 E. Third St. New location opening in July at the Bread Box, 501 W. Sixth St.

    Phone: (859) 255-6999

    Online: plantory.org.

The Plantory, which opened on East Third Street in 2011 as a source of low-cost office space for Lexington nonprofits and businesses that are community oriented, has outgrown its quarters.

In July, the Plantory will move to a portion of the Bread Box complex at 501 West Sixth Street that is being renovated. The Bread Box is currently home to West Sixth Brewing, businesses including Smithtown Seafood and Magic Beans Coffee Roasters, and a group of artists' studios.

The new Plantory space will include such amenities as a commuter shower for those who bike to work, treadmill desks for those who like an occasional break from sitting, loaner bicycles for those who work in the complex, a nap room and a loft area where Plantory workers can exercise and play video games. It will also include more and bigger conference rooms, which are a boon both for member organizations and those in the community who want to rent a conference room with teleconferencing ability and wifi by the hour, plus available treadmill desks.

The Plantory also offers a mailing address option, so nonprofits can centralize their mail delivery without having office space.

Angela Baldridge, executive director of the Plantory, said that the organization wants its members to achieve balance — not just between work and life, but also with the earth's resources. New desks being built include a sheet of specially designed plywood with options such as a bookshelf, armoire and upholstered stool.

An organization such as the Plantory "can make such a monumental difference in how nonprofits work together in Lexington," Baldridge said. "There's a huge need for it in Lexington. ... We're looking forward to becoming a hub for exchange of ideas, to connect those dots in a more meaningful way."

Baldridge's dog Elvis, a friendly large yellow mixed-breed, ambles around the Third Street office, looking for head pats and new friends.

Without a central office such as the Plantory, nonprofits and small community-oriented businesses did not get the benefits of daily synergy — the exchange of ideas that occurs when representatives of those organizations sit in close proximity with each other, starting with the morning appearance of the barista who makes coffee drinks for the tenants for a small charge. The Plantory also hosts educational programs such as Grow 101: 101 Topics for Nonprofits, which helps the often understaffed community organizations understand the array of roles they must play within their business.

"It's hard to walk in and be an expert in, say, accounting," Baldridge said.

Baldridge said that while the Plantory does not break even in its current space, it will in the new space. Its goal is to move in with 40-50 organizations,

The new space will hold up to 100 tenants.

Opened in 2011 as a social innovation center for nonprofits to collaborate while lowering their administrative costs, the Plantory's concept has also been a success elsewhere.

The Plantory's current mix of tenants includes non-profits and some businesses, although the businesses "have to be doing good work for the community," Baldridge notes. Businesses at the Plantory include the event-planning company LexEffect.

"We do have a fun business, and having our office located within the Plantory makes things that much better," said Kaelyn Query, founder and president of LexEffect. "LexEffect strives to promote the community and local people, so it's nice to be around like-minded folks who are also trying to improve the community. We are a relatively new, small company so the very reasonable rent, low overhead, and shared expenses couldn't be a better option for us."

Query said the Plantory environment encourages collaboration among its tenants.

"We have collaborated with nonprofits that we weren't aware of before. We met the folks at CirrusMio (which provides cloud-based solutions and services) and are working on a few projects with them. We needed an app developed and met a great guy at the Plantory who does just that."

Kay Hoffman, chair of the Plantory board and a tenant with her CHES Solutions Group for human services organizations, said that the Plantory's prospects for encouraging the growth of nonprofits and community-conscious businesses are bright.

"The amount of collaboration we're able to do with a few people is pretty remarkable," she said. "If the little bit that we have (at Third Street) is a prediction of what it will be like when we have more and more varied groups, it's going to be pretty fantastic."

She said that the Plantory operates on the principle "that knowing people and just being with people is the basis for getting good ideas going. ... That ambiance, that flavor of what's lived daily, gets passed around the Plantory."

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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