At Local 64, Lars Hasselblad Torres has been running something of an ongoing tech jam since last June. The airy second-floor space on State Street in Montpelier is “a little bit lounge, a little bit hive,” as he puts it. The membership-driven coworking space serves as a hub for local creatives who need an office or just crave the companionship of likeminded techie types.
“We are mission driven,” Torres says. “I want to support central Vermont’s entrepreneur ecology.”
Before Torres came to Vermont, to study at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, he started a public-policy institute in Washington, D.C. He has also worked in elementary school arts education. He’s had the idea that would become Local 64 for several years, but this year, with the help of a few “early adopters,” Torres says, he managed to realize it. He found the brick-walled quarters — 1100 square feet on two floors — set up an inviting, lounge-like area with modern décor and handsome artwork and put in a small kitchen. The adjoining compact offices are outfitted with desks and Wi-Fi.
Some of the participants are “nomads” — that is, folks who need a temporary place to sit and work on their laptops. But more than 40 members now pay monthly fees for access to the venue. “On any given day, there are probably eight people using the space,” Torres reports. “If you have an office, you get a key. If you’re a nomad, it’s available Monday through Friday, nine to five.”
A popular Local 64 event is Pitch Kitchen, a sounding-board opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. “The idea is to create a platform for people with new, big ideas to develop their pitch [for, say, potential investors] and get constructive feedback,” explains Torres. Other events include weekly TED talks, workshops, receptions for exhibiting artists and game nights. Last weekend, the venue hosted a 3-D printer demonstration. Torres says other groups are welcome to use the facility for meetings or presentations, as well. “We would love to see the community engagement grow,” he says.
Torres’ unusual name hints at his international background: His father is Puerto Rican, his mother Swedish, and he spent part of his childhood in West Africa. Now, living in tiny Cabot, Torres is devoted to helping tech-minded Vermonters participate in the global economy without leaving home. He’s also giving thought to a franchise model that would bring Local 64-type facilities to other communities.
Meanwhile, Local 64 appears to be gathering steam, luring “bright creatives” out of isolation in central Vermont and developing a reputation as a stimulating spot to hang out. As Torres puts it on his website, “Come for the coffee. Stay for the people you’ll meet.”
5 State Street, Montpelier. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and for events. Rentals range from $15 per day to $175 per month. local64.com