Town Hall 2.0: The bold ambition of downtown Springfield’s COhatch The Market

For all the fanfare surrounding the opening of COhatch The Market, there was a chance that it wouldn’t have happened at all.

You could chalk it up to fate or divine intervention, but in this case, it seems that much of it came down to the squeakiest wheel getting the grease, as it were.

Matt Davis, CEO and co-founder of COhatch — a new coworking space but much more — says that Springfield wasn’t on his radar when looking at new locations for the company that has recently expanded its footprint to 40 locations throughout Ohio and Indiana.

Springfield boosters and now COhatch The Market co-owners and operators Pat and Nancy Williams asked Davis to come to town and see what Springfield had to offer — and what COhatch might be able to offer to the city.

“Pat and Nancy asked for us to come and we fell in love with the city and the infrastructure right away. And we saw a need for it,” Davis says.

“We thought that we could have an impact here for the next 100 years.”

Founded in 2016 and based out of Columbus, COhatch goes above and beyond what one might expect from a traditional coworking space. The Springfield location is no exception.

There are the shared work spaces and private offices, yes. Meeting rooms and event spaces and Wi-Fi throughout. But not many coworking spaces also have shared work spaces for those in the culinary arts, as well. COhatch The Market features a $200,000 commercial kitchen, a demonstration kitchen, and access to the in-house market. And then there are the on-site bars and restaurants, too.

The market itself is a virtual one, where customers can order their selections from local farmers and food makers online throughout the week, with the purchases arriving every Wednesday and Saturday.

Members have access to the other COhatch locations. And that’s not all they have access to: COhatch provides members a host of benefits, including everything from bounce houses for personal parties to the company-owned beach house in Florida.

“Sometimes it’s hard getting people to wrap their heads around all of it. Our members own all of this stuff, making it more affordable,” Davis says.

“We have a slogan: Whatever you want, we can buy it and share it.”

Davis has several slogans, in fact, each of which help to shed light on the ambition of Springfield’s COhatch The Market.

The company designs each COhatch location to act as a “Town Hall 2.0,” a place that re-establishes a center of community or, as Davis puts it, a center of gravity. Typically located in city centers, traditional downtowns, and historic districts, one of the company’s goals is to re-energize those very places; places where mom-and-pop shops may have since left for the suburbs or have been put out of business by large corporations.

They do this in a myriad of ways, from supporting social enterprises to offering scholarships for nonprofit organizations. Much of COhatch The Market is accessible to everyone, whether a member or not. Everyone is free to gather at the bars and restaurants or to shop at The Market itself.

“‘Let’s make a new history’ is a new slogan we have,” Davis says. “Look at a map and we’re at the very center of Springfield. Let’s truly build something that everyone can use, whether you’re a member or not.

“Let’s support small businesses and help them grow.”

Though it might seem earnest, Davis has backed up his zeal for community building with results.

In Springfield, COhatch has transformed the vacant Myers Market building with more than $3 million spent in renovations.

Built in 1908, the more than 27,000-square-foot building was most recently home to United Senior Services before they left several years ago. The COhatch team stripped away decades of ill-advised design choices to reveal 100-year-old tile floors, original wood entryways, and brick walls — peeling away drywall and drop ceilings “like an onion,” Davis says.

Repurposed with design choices that celebrate the space’s history while outfitting it for the future, it’s Davis’s goal that COhatch The Market does the same for the building as it does the city of Springfield.

“We’re all about engineering collision,” Davis says. “It’s our job to create pathways for you to interact with other people.

“It doesn’t do anyone any good to work from a coffee shop with their ear buds in or to work in their pajamas from their living room. You meet people and make connections by colliding with people.”

The COhatch coworking space celebrated its opening on Monday, March 9. The Market portion is scheduled to open Wednesday, April 1. A community open house is planned for Saturday, April 11, with details forthcoming.
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