Coming in 2017: The Union, Downtown Indy’s Massive New Tech Space

John Hurley, CEO of SmartFile and a partner in The Union, is very clear about what his newly announced downtown venture is not: a co-working space. Instead, he envisions The Union to be a hub of offices located in the 122,000-square-foot Brougher Building created to appeal to tech startups on the brink of serious growth.

“We’re looking to attract companies that have made it past elementary school to the high school phase of their company’s life cycle,” Hurley explains, describing a space that was in fact a former high school. “Indianapolis has done a fabulous job of nurturing young companies. We’re good at getting the minimum viable product off the ground, but we’ve struggled with that next step in scaling. At The Union, we’re providing something that doesn’t yet exist and is designed specifically to meet those scale-up needs.”

Opening next February, The Union will offer short-term leases on 5,000-square-foot offices open only to tech companies. The building’s amenities include movable walls to temporarily shrink or enlarge rooms; a kitchen with a movable bar; free parking; Internet with VOIP and hosting; and 24-7 key card access to the building. There’s also a 120-year-old gym that has been wired for sound and video to use as an event space.

“We’re creating an environment for companies to grow and prosper,” Hurley says. “The rent is 30 percent below market value, there’s no burden of a long-term lease, and you get the benefit of communal space to encourage collaboration.”

Hurley, who has worked in the software industry for the better part of 20 years, says the project came out of his desire to find suitable office space for SmartFile, his quickly growing enterprise file-sharing company. Finding downtown office space for tech companies has been a perennial challenge in Indianapolis, Hurley points out. So when he found the building at 525 S. Meridian, he began formulating a goal that went beyond office space for his company—although SmartFile is one of The Union’s first tenants, along with health IT company Springbuk.

“It was more space than we needed, and we knew it could benefit the whole tech community,” Hurley says.

Before it was an Eli Lilly facility, the building housing The Union was Emmerich Manual High School, built in 1891. The group of investors backing The Union strove to maintain the history of what was the nation’s first technical training school, preserving the gymnasium, courtyard, and original bell towers.

“They actually had to change the laws back then to establish it as a vocational training school,” Hurley says. “There’s nothing of this scale in the state, especially in downtown Indianapolis. It’s a special place for the city, and this brings the history full circle.”

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