A Co-Workspace is the Newest Creative Idea for the Connolly Shoe Factory

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The Connolly Shoe Factory in 1940. (Photo courtesy of Washington County Historical Society)

There are a lot of creative ideas being worked out for the redevelopment of the old Connolly Shoe Factory building in downtown Stillwater.

Judd Sather and two silent partners have set out on a $5 million project that will turn the old shoe factory, located at 123 N. Second St., into a space to accommodate large events, a new brewery and taproom, a speakeasy, and possibly, a community workspace for freelancers and entrepreneurs who work from home.

Tommy Tompkins launched the Lift Bridge Workspace’s website last week to gauge interest for the idea of co-workspace in downtown Stillwater.

“We’re on a mission to provide an inspiring co-workspace option for freelancers, graphic designers, web developers, startups, and other professionals that work from home on the east side of the Twin Cities,” Tompkins said. “Ultimately, we’d love to be the catalyst that brings freelancers and entrepreneurs together in downtown Stillwater so that they can rub elbows, learn from each other, and help each other succeed in their own ventures.”

If the business comes to fruition, Lift Bridge Workspace will provide open and private workspaces, conference rooms and event space for rent in the north end of downtown Stillwater, Tompkins said.

“There won’t be any long term lease commitments,” he said, “as all spaces will be rented with monthly memberships, or by the hour for conference rooms and events.”

The new event venue — expected to open in May — will accommodate up to 1,200 people.

The Connolly Shoe Factory building will be the new home of JX Event Venue, The Velveteen Speakeasy, Three Kettles Brewing Co. and more.

The building is located across the street from the parking ramp, and is surrounded by free three-hour parking.

“I run a small software company called RedCart, but primarily work from home,” Tompkins said. “With two little ones and a dog always begging for attention, it’s difficult to focus and make real progress. For years I’ve dreamed of a coworking space in Stillwater as the perfect solution for myself and other freelancers and entrepreneurs in the area.”

Tompkins is currently in the process of trying to gauge the local market to see if there’s enough interest in the area to sustain a successful coworking space. If enough interest is generated, the next step is to team up with JX Event Venue to invest in the build-out of the space.

Ron Wirth, owner of Three Kettles Brewing Co., told the Pioneer Press he plans to open a brewery and taproom in the northeast corner of the building that will feature a rotation of 24 beers on tap.

The Velveteen Speakeasy will be a Prohibition-era-style lounge owned and operated by Dariush and Sarah Moslemi, who own Studio One Yoga.

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