Come 2016, Goodlife Fitness headquarters in downtown London is going to look a lot different.
After six years of work and 18 months scouring the downtown including flirts with the Kingsmill’s department store and the Honest Lawyer, Pillar Non-Profit Network announced Wednesday (Aug. 13) they’ve found a home for a social innovation shared space.
It’s the Garvey Building next to now-shuttered Novack’s on King Street, the current home of Goodlife corporate headquarters. Pillar takes ownership Sept. 15 and plans to spend about $4 million turning it into a space where people and organizations can save on overhead and find synergy on projects and ideas.
It’s like a business incubator for community projects with a triple bottom line and there are more than 1,300 of them around the world, leasing workspace for as little as a day to other social enterprises and entrepreneurs.
“We’re intentionally bringing people together to bump into each other,” Pillar executive director Michelle Baldwin explained to reporters.
Tenants already lined up include Fanshawe College, Mind Your Mind, TechAlliance, Goodwill and the Brain Injury Association and the consortium that spearheaded the effort: Emerging Leaders, the London Heritage and London Arts Councils and Pillar.
They celebrated the emotional win in front of a friendly crowd of supporters at the Goodwill building on Horton Street Wednesday morning.
Asked about the shaking voices during the address, Emerging Leaders director Sean Quigley said it was bound to stir up strong emotions.
“I’m still very emotional,” he said after the formalities. “We gave ourselves to the process and worked very hard. There’s no doubt we put our heart and soul and sweat and blood to make this happen.”
It took cash, too. The London Community Foundation helped get the ball rolling when it funded the feasibility study for the social innovation shared space (Pillar’s holding a naming contest, maybe to save on the sign) last year.
The Ursuline Sisters of Chatham-Kent donated $500,000, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Canadian Alternate Investment Cooperative (CAIC) loaned them another half-million each and Libro Credit Union took on the mortgage.
Built in 1910 by wholesaler James Garvey to as a warehouse for “groceries and liquor,” the four-storey Italianated red brick commercial building hosted the Department of Veteran Affairs in the 1950s before it was divested to a group of London business owners in the mid-1960s. Goodlife bought it in 2005 and will remain there during renovations in 2015.
Bent on joining the revitalization of the downtown, the group vetted more than 20 locations including Kingsmill’s, which would have been too costly to fix up, and the SYN Centre in its months-long search.
Baldwin said in the end the location and the charm of the period with its hardwood floors made a big difference.
“This building has the soul we were looking for.”