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Tahoe Mountain Lab moves into new home (opinion)

Cristi Creegan and David Orr
Tribune Guest Columnists

After 10 months of extensive renovation, the Tahoe Daily Tribune building on Harrison Avenue has become the new home of Tahoe Mountain Lab. Last week we watched somewhat wistfully as contractors removed the old wooden Tribune sign, which had hung there since 1973, and took it across the street to the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum to become part of its collection. Our new sign goes up in the next couple weeks and marks a permanent change in the landscape of Harrison Avenue.

The concept of shared workspace isn’t new, but it is new to South Lake Tahoe. When the original Tahoe Mountain Lab opened on Ski Run Boulevard in 2014, co-working and collaborative offices weren’t part of the professional climate here. We found out that it was wanted, however, as demand quickly drove the search for a larger space.

The Tribune building is perfectly located to be that space. When the four of us (Jamie and David Orr, and Cristi and Bernard Creegan) ran into each other at the Tahoe Summit in the summer of 2014, finding a new location was already in the works. A partnership made sense because we’d worked with Bernard in the past, and we’d asked him to provide a contractor’s opinion of the building. That resulted in a business partnership between the four of us, along with a 10-month period of negotiations with the seller that culminated in the purchase in July of 2015.

This project would not have gone forward without the committed partnership of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and its parent company Swift Communications. The building had been for sale off and on for years, but no deal had stuck. From the beginning of our relationship with them, Swift’s management was in support of our vision and wanted to be a part of it.

The building is now modern, bright and wired; we’ve focused on making the structure as sustainable and technologically current as possible. Smart fans communicate with Nest thermostats to control temperature and climate. In the conference room, you can stream your presentation directly from your phone to our AV equipment. The Tribune’s roll-up door can be controlled via a smart phone application. All of this is supported by significant bandwidth provided by Charter Communications. Access to the building is controlled by a system custom-built by Mountain Lab member Ben Damman, who used his technological prowess to develop it to specifically fit the needs of our co-working space.

At every step in the renovation we thought, “Would we work here?” The interior demanded more natural light, so we added windows to both the exterior and the interior to allow light to flow throughout the space. After removing the lowered ceiling, we were able to keep it vaulted in both the lobby and the co-working spaces. Dyson hand dryers are installed in the restrooms to reduce paper use, and a water-bottle-filling station stands in the hallway, keeping track of the number of water bottles saved by its use.

The almost-11,000-square-foot building now contains 25 individual offices, the largest of which is the Tribune’s. Most of the companies moving in are downsizing their office space, but happily so; they’ve said it’s given them to opportunity to cull through and clean house. And while the size of the individual offices may be smaller than in other buildings, the number of collaborative, shared spaces is enormous. In addition to the 1,440-square-foot lobby, the building holds a 720-square-foot conference room and three additional hang-out spaces. We don’t know exactly how these will be used, but we’re looking forward to finding out!

It’s the dynamic, collaborative vibe that such a space inspires that people are most excited about. The Mountain Lab’s members are of all ages, professions and stages in their careers; some have lived in Tahoe for 30 years, some only two months. This week we hosted our first happy hour in the lobby. It was attended by an enthusiastic group of about 40 who spent time drinking homemade smoked chipotle porter, laying out their new offices and networking among a myriad of new faces.

“Now we’re counting the days,” said Mikan Gosuico of the Tahoe Heritage Foundation. “We used to be counting the months, and now it’s the days, and soon it’ll be the hours!”

It was in conversation with Mikan that we realized just how tied into the South Shore community the members of the Mountain Lab are. In alphabetical order for parity, and we’re sure we’re unintentionally leaving some out (so, apologies), is a list of community organizations in which our members don’t just participate, but lead: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kiwanis Club of Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation, Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, Live Violence Free, Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe, South Tahoe Middle School PTA, Tahoe Heritage Foundation, Tahoe Prosperity Center, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, Tahoe Tallac Association and Tahoe Women’s Community Fund.

This recognition brought it full circle. The new Mountain Lab on Harrison Avenue isn’t just an office building, and it isn’t just a place to rent a desk. It isn’t just a modern building in a mountain town. And it isn’t just a collection of people wrapped within their individual agendas. It is a group of people, all kinds of people, committed to participating in the leadership of this community’s future. We very much look forward to seeing what grows from this truly cooperative effort.

Mother of two daughters, avid reader, attorney, and novice birdwatcher, Cristi Creegan, has lived in South Lake Tahoe since 1997 and is the chief operating officer of Mountain Lab. David Orr serves as the chief marketing and financial officer of Mountain Lab. When he is not brewing beer you can find him enjoying the outdoors with his family.


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