On Broadway: South Portland space for creative co-working

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A co-working space that aims to connect creative businesses is preparing for a May 10 opening. 

The roughly 3,700-square-foot building at 1486 Broadway was renovated by owner and South Portland resident James LaPlante, who has operated his business, Emmy award-winning Sputnik Animation, at the address for 10 years. 

While his studio will remain and anchor the business, SoPo Coworks will be built around it. The concept took hold last the fall. 

“Yeah, we’re an Emmy-award winning studio that nobody knows about,” LaPlante joked. His studio works with clients such as Public Broadcasting, NOVA, National Geographic, Harvard University, and others, focusing on documentary, biomedical, and engineering work, using animation to visually explain complex concepts.  

LaPlante, who has lived in South Portland for 20 years, said he considered putting the building on the market and moving to a collaborative space in Portland, but then decided instead to try to attract other industries across the bridge to South Portland. 

He said he is seeking diversity in the people and businesses that will use the space, including writers, programmers, accountants and web developers. LaPlante said he would like to create a place where people can collaborate on projects, adding he is confident the building will attract an estimated 30 to 40 tenants.

LaPlante said South Portland is an attractive community, with good restaurants and a growing population. Since most of his clientele is out of state, LaPlante said he felt a little insular and is just now starting to network with local companies and businesses. 

He said he would like the space to develop organically as a community is created, where collaboration and the sharing of ideas is encouraged.

The building will include floating desks; permanent desks; office spaces ranging in price from $90 a month to $600 a month; a kitchen; conference room, and communal space.Included in the price will be use of a conference room for meetings, virtual reality equipment and an animation studio.

LaPlante said he may look to partner with other organizations and educational institutions to teach classes, host film festivals, events and meetings. 

He said spaces in Portland are typically more expensive and parking is limited, so he saw an opportunity in the existing building, with 30 parking spaces and green space behind the building that can be used for recreational activities. 

“You can’t get that downtown,” LaPlante said. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net or on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Business owner James LaPlante is opening SoPo Coworks, a creative coworking studio at 1486 Broadway in South Portland, in May.