Brian and Irwin Mendelssohn know people are passionate about their businesses and careers; which is why the brothers are putting the same dedication into Fulton Commons, a kitchen incubator-artist studio-coworking space in Pitttsburgh’s North Side.
Two years ago, the principals of Botero Development, a local firm focused on residential, retail, office and mixed-use projects, bought Saint Joseph School on Fulton Street in Manchester and began gutting the 18,800-square-foot building.
When it opens in the next few weeks, Fulton Commons will provide food companies with unlimited access to commercial kitchen equipment. It also will give artists room to create and offer communal work areas, conference rooms and private offices for freelancers and startups.
There will memberships available for about 150 people, including 32 kitchen spots (starting at $650 per month) and 12 artist workshops (starting at $350 per month). Coworking users will pay between $125 to $400 per month, depending on the accommodations they need. In addition to 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access to the physical space, all members will receive business planning guidance from various experts. Topics will range from bookkeeping and marketing to legalese.
The site mixes old-school charm with modern amenities. Most of the furniture is vintage and many pieces were salvaged from local schools and universities.
The original structure was built in the 1940s and, until recently, served as the Western Pennsylvania headquarters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Thanks to dozens of large windows, both floors are bathed in natural light.
Fulton Commons boasts a main area with cafe tables and a small market featuring coffee from Harrisburg-based Elementary Coffee. Members can get endless cups of joe by joining the coffee club for $5 a month.
The rest of the first floor is divided into four “neighborhoods,” each with their own distinct decor. There’s a space reminiscent of 1950s-era Miami, a whimsical film set a la Wes Anderson, a classic library with rich textures and a schoolhouse complete with the building’s original doors. There are 32 offices as well several conference rooms located throughout.
Unifying the overall space is the wood floor (made with lumber from the Allegheny National Forest) and artistic light fixtures, which are equipped with occupancy sensors to reduce energy use. Music — curated by the Mendelssohns — will play throughout the building.
The basement kitchen, which will open for business about a month after the first floor, is equipped with private kitchen stations, prep tables, storage space, multiple sinks color-coded for different kinds of food (poultry, beef, fish, etc.) and new appliances including a walk-in freezer. Members who operate food trucks will have a place to prep their food, dump grey water, store supplies, stock up on water and ice and do vehicle maintenance.
Artist studios are located on the ground floor in a separate area. The Mendelssohns believe the spot is a great place for a variety of makers, designers and architects. An on-site photography studio will be open to the public, but Fulton Commons members will have priority access at a discounted rate.
At the outdoor plaza, there will be farmers markets, festivals, workshops and other public events.
The entire facility is not only functional, but beautiful.
“It was designed to be an environment where you want to stay and work,” Brian Mendelssohn says.