One of the common values of coworking is Sustainability, but even if that were not the case, we followed these guiding principles when remodeling the space for Cowork Frederick:
Go Green (recycled, reused materials, extra insulation, earth-friendly products, efficient appliances, etc.)
Stay Historic (preserve original as much as possible, choose new materials in keeping with historic look)
Create a Cool Eclectic Feel (mix old and new, comfortable with formal, create a professional, but still somewhat funky feel)
- Be Versatile (renovate in a way that allows multiple uses)
We started with removing asbestos from the pipes in the basement. Next was leveling and addressing some structrual issues with the granite steps out front.
Shortly thereafter, we received a notice from the City of Frederick telling us we needed to repair the sidewalk. What? This was certainly news to us! In the City of Frederick, “property owners are responsible for the repair and upkeep of the public walk fronting along their property.” So be it! We wanted a brick sidewalk anyway.
Porter Brook II did the work, catering to our “green” sensibilities and our budget by recycling the concrete they took up. Later, also catering to our desire to have a minimal impact on the environment, we hired them put pavers they recovered from another job in the front area of our basement. We really appreciated their flexibility and creative options.
Wow! What a great looking sidewalk! And no more gaps in the steps! Thank you Porter Brook II and Doug Chappell!
Then our attention turned to the inside. We planned to replace all the old plumbing and knob & tube wiring, so the ceilings on the first floor had to come down (that was fun!). We figure that over 2 tons of plaster went to the dump. Couldn’t find any reuse for that.
We discovered the back of the first floor was in terrible shape (lots of rotted wood), so everything was removed – all the way to the dirt!
It was finally time to rebuild. New joists were put in. All plumbing and electrical was replaced. While we were at it, a few things were “cleaned up” or just “done right”. Here’s Darren Kaufman relocating the AC refrigerant lines that used to wrap around the exterior of the building (ugh) so they run under the (soon to be installed) floor.
Super “green”, earth-friendly Airkrete insulation was blown by Palmer Industries.
With that done, it was time to put down the new subfloor and frame the walls. What a milestone that was. It finally felt like we were really (and finally) moving forward, building up instead of tearing down. Keep in mind, this was just the back 25% of the first floor. The rest of the building remained “as is”, save the ceilings coming down on the rest of the first floor. Still, oh my! was it great to see “walls”!
Fitzgerald’s Heavy Timber Construction did most of that work: the joists, subfloor, and framing. They also repointed brick in several locations, added a beam in the basement to support what would become the multi-purpose room where we might have a large concentration of furniture and people, replaced the copper flashing above the front door, and repaired the gutter in the front. Here they are now doing that gutter repair.
Last but not least, the drywall went up. Ah! Ceilings! Next would be endless caulking, painting, trim carpentry, cabinets for the break room, countertops, sinks, faucets. light fixtures, and SO MUCH more. MEC Electrical did all the elecrical work. Albert Main did the plumbing. Noel’s Fire Protection installed a sprinkler system. Heavy Timber did some of the trim carpentry. Julia’s brother, John Swanson, came down from Oregon for a week and helped put up crown moulding and put down ceramic tile. And, as with the demolition, we did a lot of the finish work ourselves. Monroe Grossnickle helped with all manner of random tasks we just couldn’t find the time or skill to complete.
We hired local folks throughout the entire project. We used recaptured materials, from our own building where we could, and purchased others mostly from the Habitat ReStore in Frederick but also from Second Chance in Baltimore. When we purchased new materials, we sought out clearance items that otherwise might have been destined for the dump. That made for some interesting conversations with those that helped us with the remodel. “No really, it’s OK if the tiles don’tmatch and if they’re not exactly the same size. Just place them randomly and it will look great.” (and, by the way, it does!). Glen did a great job patching a section of wood floor with mix and match hardwood boards.
Before this chapter ends, we have to acknowledge how great the City of Frederick has been to work with. We had so much to learn about remodeling a 150 year old building in an historic district for commercial use. Many people went out of their way to coach and guide us. When it was all said and done, we had our new space for Cowork Frederick. That’s covered in Chapter 3. Read on!