SPRINGBOARD: From left: Brothers Brian, Daniel, Jay and Kevin Murphy are converting the former Providence headquarters of Home Loan Investment Bank into a startup hub. Fledgling companies will begin on the third floor and move up if they are successful.
To fill empty space in a sluggish office market, some Rhode Island property owners have decided to help grow the new corporate tenants of the future.
They’re building new or renovated incubator spaces, small, flexibly arranged offices catering to startups, entrepreneurs and anyone desperate to get out of the home office and coffee shop.
One recent example is on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence, where the Murphy family, owners of Home Loan Investment Bank, have decided to convert their old company headquarters into a startup hub.
“We decided to take an ‘if you build it they will come’ mentality,” said Kevin Murphy, a corporate lawyer who will be starting his own practice in the building and one of four brothers involved in the incubator project. “We wanted to make sure we were ready when the economy turned around.”
The upper floors of the three-story, turn-of-the-century building at 244 Weybosset, which was home to Home Loan Investment Bank offices from 1984 to 1995, had become difficult to fill since the recession.
The family rebuffed a proposal to convert the building into apartments, but did not have a tenant for the upper floors since U.S. Air Force recruiters left in 2010.
After kicking around the idea of renovating the building to fit multiple smaller tenants for several years, the Murphys decided to do it last year after discussions at The Rhode Island Foundation’s “Make It Happen” forum about fixing the state economy.
“I finance small businesses, so I am in contact with entrepreneurs and a lot of them said they were looking for space, but they only needed a room,” said Daniel Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing at Ocean Capital, the commercial lending arm of Home Loan Investment Bank.
“We wanted to create a space where like-minded individuals would come to work,” Daniel Murphy said.
When the renovations are finished – expected at some point this month – the incubator will open as the Hatch Entrepreneurial Center with 6,000 square feet of space and access to mentors in areas including accounting, finance, law and marketing.
The incubator will feature a range of space options, from a single desk to multiroom suites and offer entrepreneurs the flexibility to rent for days or for months.