New Space: A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky…

When Richmond Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri started a conversation with me last winter about his ideas for some real estate at 300 East Franklin Street, I was intrigued.

I’ve known Tom since my first career, which started at 300 East Grace Street. I was a young cub reporter – well, “City Desk intern” – at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and he was a business reporter. We reconnected while I was at Luck Stone – I was working on leadership and culture, and he was working on innovation and culture. We’ve since become friends, and collaborators.

I know Tom as a big thinker, eager and willing to stretch the conversation in new directions – even when he’s swimming upstream. Maybe especially when he’s swimming upstream.

Which is how an idea as unique as 1E (a temporary name, I promise) managed to get traction at a time when risk aversion was the coin of the realm at the TD’s then-parent company, Media General.

Yesterday, the Times-Dispatch announced the creation of a new collaborative workspace in their downtown building. The Floricane team will be working with Tom’s his team to take 4,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the building and create a dynamic community for 6-8 small businesses and entrepreneurs. That’s just Phase 1.

Our small team formally relocated this week, and we’ll be actively working with the Times-Dispatch to help them recruit and select another handful of businesses to fill out the space. On the Grace Street side of the building, we’ve carved out space for Floricane and other businesses, and wrapped it around 1,500 square feet of coworking space – big shared areas where the entrepreneurs and the Times-Dispatch can come together and work, connect and interact. We see it as a catalyzing space, and a social space – a space that is about collaboration and synergy.

It’s hard to live in Richmond and not have a love/hate relationship with the Times-Dispatch. In so many ways, the paper has been seen as emblematic of many of Richmond’s challenges. It’s also a mirror of what is right about Richmond, and its potential.

Last month’s sale of the Times-Dispatch from Media General to the new Berkshire Hathaway Media Group reframes the paper’s potential – and that of our community – on so many levels. And the creation of this new space for the business community reflects that.

It’s a big, fun surprise to be returning to the building that helped me find my voice as a writer 21 years ago. I’m looking forward to strengthening my voice in collaboration with other entrepreneurs and a team of journalists who are as committed to the #RVA community as Floricane.