Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week we discuss the rise of Co-working Spaces in downtown and what it means for innovation, entrepreneurship and the future of Tucson

Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts and Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. Form A mountain to the U of A and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM streaming on also available on your iPhone or Android using our own Downtown Radio app. Just head over to Google Play or the App Store and download Downtown Radio Tucson. And if you want to get us here on the show, our email address is [email protected] you can interact with us on Facebook at Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter at StreetcarLife.

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with Lalo Guerrero

Today is August 25th my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”. We start today with beer–beer– and beer.

Build Grow Exit

Earlier this year there was a major disruption in the entrepreneur force in Tucson. A long standing environment of collaboration and flexible office solutions, chose to shut their doors. Connect Co-working had been the home of many startups, small businesses, solo acts a from national companies. That void has been filled and the co-working of Tucson seems to be a tipping point with many options for potential users.

Outside of our footprint for this show there are 2 hyper focused spaces set up to serve niche communities. The Community Foundation has a spot for non-profits and Catalyst, for artistic types, is due to open next month.

In Tucson’s Urban core, 3 players have stepped into the scene- Common Workspace, near the main library. Brings Co-Working on the 2nd floor of the former Brings Funeral Home and next to the trendy Owl’s Club. And then there is Anexo Works and Events. Anexo is part of master plan by Katina Koller and her business partner Gina Catalano to create a co- working campus in the heart of Barrio Viejo. It started with a room in the former Jerry’s Lee Ho grocery store used as an event and meeting space. They have added Anexo on Simpson and will soon offer the former La Suprema Tortilla Factory as the crown jewel.

We sat down with Ashley La Russa of Roux events, who manages and programs these spaces, and Katina Koller, co-founder of this vision for a walkable, connected, co-working campus.


Tom Heath: Good morning Tuscon! It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo. And I want to thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your Downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station. This week, we discuss the rise of co-working spaces in downtown and what it means for Innovation, entrepreneurship, and the future of Tucson.

Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts and Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. Form A mountain to the U of A and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM streaming on also available on your iPhone or Android using our own Downtown Radio app. Just head over to Google Play or the App Store and download Downtown Radio Tucson. And if you want to get us here on the show, our email address is [email protected] you can interact with us on Facebook at Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter at StreetcarLife.

Tom Heath: Well today is August 25th. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar. And we start today with beer, beer and beer. So who will take home the coveted Tucson’s Beer Cup? Well that’s going to be up to you and to me to decide this.

Tom Heath: 15 local breweries will compete in the eighth annual born and brewed beer battle at Hotel Congress. Now, there’s two big Awards up for these local purveyors of barley and hops. They have to impress the judges for that award, and then there’s also the ever coveted People’s Choice Award. There’s also specialty beer and best Flagship beer and there might be some other categories as well.

Tom Heath: Now this is not just a downtown competition. There are 15 breweries and they’re from all over the general area here. I think Button Brewery, Catalina Brewing, come from up North. Dillinger and Sentinel Peak are more Central and according to Black Rock, on their website, they claim to be the only East Side Brewery.

Tom Heath: Tucson’s newest addition to this craft and microbrew scene, Copper Mine, will also be presenting. Now, there are a host of our downtown establishments making the Trek to set up at Hotel Congress. Now, there is a cost and your ticket includes snacks as well as the beer tasters at the various tents and there is a VIP experience. So I looked at the menu there on the online and that paired menu includes things like a pear And parsnip bisque and arugula and prosciutto salad with a main course of Cornish Game Hen. How fancy for a beer festival.

Tom Heath: Born and Brewed is in its eighth year and a couple weeks ago, we spoke with Chris Squires of 1055 brewing and we asked him about the amount of breweries that seem to be popping up and if if this was a sustainable model. And he said yes, there’s always room at the top for another great beer and he thought collectively that these local Brewers are actually pulling more people in from the larger National macrobrewers than there are taking from their local competitor. So as a scene they’re pulling more people in and they working collaboratively to make Tucson a driving force in having great beer.

Tom Heath: For our people and our events now something like born brute is not just about providing a bragging rights for winners. It gives us a chance to see how strong the industry is and that it’s in our backyard. Born and Brewed is on the 14th. If you want any more information head over to our Facebook page after the show and we’ll link for ticket and event information.

Tom Heath: Earlier this year, there was a major disruption in the entrepreneur force in Tucson, a long-standing environment of collaboration and flexible Office Solutions chose to close their doors connect co-working had been the home of many startups small businesses solo acts from National companies and others and when they shut their door there was a void and that has been filled in co-working in the City of Tucson and it seems like we’re at a Tipping Point with many options for potential users.

Tom Heath: Now outside of our footprint for this show. There are two hyper-focused spaces set up to serve niche communities. So the Community Foundation has a spot for nonprofits specifically and Catalyst, which will be for artistic types is due to open up next month in the Tucson Mall.

Tom Heath: Well, in Tucson’s Urban core, three players have stepped into the scene: Common Workspace, which is near the main library. It’s right above the the Little One restaurant there. Brings Co-Working, which is on the second floor of the former Brings Funeral Home on Scott and next to the Trendy Owls club. And then there is Anexo Works and Events.

Tom Heath: Anexo is part of a master plan by Katina Kohler and her business partner, Gina Catalano. Create a co-working campus in the heart of Barrio Viejo. Now this project started with a single room in what was the former Jerry Lee Ho’s Grocery Market there on South Meyer. We talk a little about that space last week.

Tom Heath: For Katina and Gina. This was an event and meeting space as they hosted and helped with facilitating different types of groups in there. Now they’ve added Anexo which is on Simpson and they will soon offer the former La Suprema Tortilla Factory as the Crown Jewel. We sat down with Ashley Larussa of Rue events who manages and programs these spaces and Katina Kohler, co-founder of this vision for a walkable connected co-working space.

Katina Koller: So we saw a opportunity to create a space in the community where professionals, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, hobbyists, corporate people, travelers could come together and enjoy an inspiring space and work together.

Tom Heath: What’s the popularity of co-working? Why is it so why is it come on the scene so quickly in the last? I don’t know five six years. Is that a right time frame five or six years?

Katina Koller: Tom, that’s a really important question. And in some ways it’s born out of the technology age that we live in people are so reliant on their devices that it starts to create a feeling of isolation. And if you’re a solopreneur who works from home or from a coffee shop or maybe a single office you will in time find yourself removed or dislocated from a community and Other people inspiration. Entrepreneurs who are sharing, who are networking, who are bringing value and in general the more advanced we get in technology, the stronger our need for is human connection.

Tom Heath: Oh, you’re going old school and getting people to talk to each other. Is that that’s what’s happening here?

Katina Koller: Yeah. Yes and Ashley here is like the Catalyst of those events.

Ashley Larussa: Yes. It’s all about community and collaboration. One of the hugest reasons why I wanted to partner with Judy and Katina was their passion for that coming into a historic community at that Bario Viejo and putting it first to find out what was here and what’s needed if found I found that not aligned with the values and mission of relevance.

Ashley Larussa: And so I’m super proud that we could be a part of that co-working front because hand and hand co-working and events are two things that go together, especially with member retention. And and Outreach so it just seemed like a win-win to join together.

Ashley Larussa: And the necessity of getting out of the home, to Katinas point, because I even found myself those first two months, you know, you stop putting on the be casual or business attire and you find yourselves and your bunny slippers and your pajamas and it’s just not as productive as you could be in a space with other individuals thriving in a community

Tom Heath: The types of businesses. though. are they are they technology-driven or they artistically driven or What do you have?

Ashley Larussa: Definitely? It’s an array. Here locally. We find a lot of tech it companies also a lot of marketing agencies and contractors. We also have a collective group of artists that are starting to gather and have their own co-working spaces depending upon your needs. I don’t know the number of spaces that are looking for maker spaces as it were so you don’t have to spend the money on the infrastructure to build something, You can use that equipment and share the cost. So it all depends upon the need of the community what industry that falls in.

Tom Heath: Let’s talk about this space. This is a historic building that we’re in what what drove you to this this particular building?

Katina Koller: It was kiss met as they say or karmic. We searched for a significant amount of time for a really unique space and it happened to be at 600 Seth Meyer Avenue. It is the Haley & Aldrich Engineering Building. Originally. It was Jerry Lee hose Market at one point in Tucson’s history. It was the largest supermarket in Tucson.

Katina Koller: This facility was right down the street. So that was our initial entrance and obviously the history of the community the term of the community the absolute beauty of it the preservation efforts the wonderful neighborhood all we’re very attractive. And once you begin to immerse yourself, then you discover additional gems like Five Points Cafe and Market, which is just a wonderful destination incredible people doing incredible work broader work in the community and that became the launch point for what else is here.

Katina Koller: So as much as Ashley is a key partner to us we’ve been able to surround ourselves with more high integrity key partners and one of them is Southwest Urban, they do both development and building and real estate and the partners in that firm Are Adam Lundquist and Lanque Severe, and they really understood our aesthetic and our need to bring value and to receive value in an environment that inspired different types of work different because your environment does trigger how you think and the type of work that you do so they quickly understood that and when they said there’s a location in your Existing neighborhood.

Katina Koller: It was a it was a fantastic fit and that location is actually lost a Primo which is 319 West Simpson today. We’re at 196 West Simpson So as we were looking at the loss of Prima building, which was over time tortilla manufacturing wholesale and Distribution Company the building that we’re in today, which we dubbed Anexo because it’s kitty corner or catty-corner from La suprema, depending on what part of the country you’re from and it became available for lease and to us this campus effect in having multiple locations where people could select the vibe that best fits them was ideal and it also gave us this opportunity to realize what they call in early stage MVP or minimum viable product.

Katina Koller: So here’s the background this building itself was From the 1800’s it used to be a private residence and a tack shop or a in the back. You would find the owners horses. You can see the rich history here. So when we discovered this space, it was more of a platform just to realize this Vision on a much smaller scale and then build from there and to see who would also be attracted to the similar aesthetic to the historic neighborhood and to inspiring work spaces.

Tom Heath: So you have, this is your second location in your and we’ll talk about your third one here in a bit. I really had to operating at this point.

Katina Koller: Yes, the primary one that we started with that I described earlier at 600 South Meyer, which is Jerry Lee hose Market. That is a great blank space for facilitation. It’s about a thousand square foot room. It’s ideally set up for someone who needs It’s to host a small conference an intimate meeting do some networking, and so both Gina and I have operated our Consulting Services businesses out of that location.

Tom Heath: That is a Katina Kohler. She is co-founder along with her partner Gina Catalano of an EXO the co-working space on a Simpson. We were speaking with her and with Ashley larussa who runs Rue events which programs and manages those spaces and we’ll be back to that second part of the interview to talk about the future of Tucson and how this affects entrepreneurship and retention of our young talent.

Tom Heath: But first, I want to remind you that my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar on 99.1 FM and available for streaming on

Tom Heath: Okay, we’ll take a little bit of a detour then because you just mentioned that you said your background isn’t in co-working. What is your background?

Katina Koller: So I have a history in the family of serial entrepreneurs. I had the privilege of joining a company that my grandfather had started and my dad was running and then I subsequently bought it from him worked with an amazing team and then eventually sold that company what I really developed a passion for was creating spaces that we filled people that recharge people that energize people I worked with about 200 people you could tell from the nature of the work.

Katina Koller: They were doing the settings that they were in it could either positively or adversely impact them and that aesthetic and the creative side of it really became attractive to me. So that’s my business hat if you will, my personal hat was me, isolated, working from my home trying to hold professional business calls with my beautiful children in the background talking to me or my dogs barking with your bunny slippers. Yeah, John, this is yes and so with my dogs barking and so I just drew this Line in the Sand and I said, I have got to go and move into a professional space that really inspires me. And then from there it just grew and bloomed and blossomed.

Tom Heath: So this is just sort of a natural outpouring of your your background working with businesses understanding that reminds side and and yourself and your challenges and I’m like, I need a place and if if this makes me more successful than I can provide a space for others to have the same effect.

Katina Koller: Exactly, I mean, I facilitate 10 to 15 person teams over a course of an eight hour day and you’ve got to have beautiful lighting you have to have inspiring art work. You have to have energizing quotes. You have to have amenities that make them feel good when they walk in the space, but then give them the the stamina to move through the entire day and leave just as refueled and energized

Tom Heath: And that idea of a campus. I’m not used to co-working campuses. That seems like a different concept?

Katina Koller: We talked moments ago about how your environment triggers how you think and how you work and what you work on and one of Tucson’s greatest attributes is this outdoor environment that we have and we really have about eight nine months of the year where you can work outside provided you have the, you know, right shade so you can see your computer and so on so the campus effect was born from that why not take advantage of the outdoor spaces?

Katina Koller: Why not use that blue sky in this gorgeous sunshine and this interaction with the broader neighborhood to engage and again, I’ll use the word inspire the work that we do and for back storage unit and I both came from environments in the Midwest. They recognized my Wisconsin accent. I’m often mistaken for Canada, but very close but we lived and worked in environments for decades and we spent the majority of Our Lives endure and the view outside was Battleship Gray and the wall colors were Battleship Gray and that’s what really drew us both to Tucson. Not only the diversity and the culture and the people and the joy that I think exists here because of all of those factors, but because we could spend time outside and so for us it was vitally important to have an outdoor space and that was something key to Southwest Urban understood that requirement.

Tom Heath: Let’s talk about the next stage of that Vision because the campus you’ve got one one building now you were second to space open you up and you working on the third you talk about that the old La Suprema Factory, tell us a little about what that space is going to look like when it’s done and when it’s gonna be done?

Katina Koller: Yeah, absolutely happy to share that and I think it’s great to begin with the history. And again, we have a Chinese Merchant Market that was in Play for decades and so you will see in the last suprema building aspects of expansion of what was historically a market space and you’ll see back from photos that we were able to have a historian recover actual retail windows and Aesthetics from those time periods.

Katina Koller: And so ultimately we’re trying to bring the space not from a preservation perspective, but from a restoration perspective back to whatever we could find in those historic photos. So we had the pleasure of working with Bob Lanning from Landing architecture again, another key partner Bob spent and the Barrio Viejo neighborhood with his family as a resident for over 30 years. So who better to help us reinvigorate the space than somebody who’s actually a resident so we hired historians found these fantastic photos.

Katina Koller: And then he create he recreated those historically and then we brought in different elements from the neighborhood. You’ll often see in the Barrio alternating windows and doors. In fact doors that seemingly don’t have access because there’s a beautiful totem cactus in front of it. But at one point it was used for that and so those are some of the things that we’re discovering as the Adobe is being removed so that we can restore it completely.

Tom Heath: Does this Foster collaboration in a different way because you don’t have a lot of walls.

Katina Koller: Yeah. So as Ashley Illustrated, there’s different configurations of offices. There’s huddle rooms where you can go in and make a phone call or have a two or three person meeting there’s office space where you can lease it for two to three or four or five people and then there’s outdoor space there’s desks where you can sit desks where you can stand there’s club chairs or you can make yourself comfortable.

Katina Koller: There’s a cafe and All of that breeds this interaction that doesn’t necessarily occur in what would have been a traditional Executive Suite where you go to your space and you close the door and maybe the only common Hub that you have is the receptionist here. It’s founded in events and networking activities. And then we also really Envision programming so both Gina and I have been collaborating with Ashley and others in the community including Startup Tucson and they host their startup labs in our Meyer space. We and we see this continuing to expand.

Katina Koller: We also envision subject matter experts, kind of domain experts coming into our space and actually facilitating sessions and workshops for members. So that’s an amenity of membership, whether it’s Gratis or some will be paid. You then get to learn and then engage and interact and we also see the advantage of bringing in the broader Market because of that attractiveness.

Tom Heath: The last big question in my mind is recent article in the Daily Star that talked about Tucson’s retention rate for our college graduates and on Millennials and and that the young professional environment and the study, granted, was through 2017 and I think Tucson has changed quite a bit last couple of years. It is co-working, is that a necessary connection to keep those individuals? How does that how does it have those things tie in?

Katina Koller: Most certainly, those are definitely aligned. Just to speak to the Tucson Metro Chambers efforts. They’re coordinating a career call just for this very reason of University student retention. As you’re starting out in your profession and your career you’re going to be looking for other individuals but to connect with and discuss passions. So I think co-working is right in line with that and hopefully will help the retention here for Tucson and the greater Arizona State.

Tom Heath: We start talking about Startup Tucson the 10 West Festival all these things that are that are kind of geared towards that and it seems like everybody that I know that’s in that environment is talking to everybody else that I know that’s in that environment. And so hopefully we are creating that the Tucson incubation place that we need to keep these minds here in Tucson.

Katina Koller: Yeah, those events are fantastic portals for accessibility and inclusion. We’re seeing diverse communities underserved communities join in participation and engage in ways that maybe historically they hadn’t or hadn’t had the visibility of it. Those organizations are doing a fantastic job of bringing the community together in to your question and Ashley’s point.

Katina Koller: This is the foundation retention in many ways for people who are contemplating leaving Tucson for other markets where they feel like they can get access to professionals with domain expertise. They can access lease space at a cost that’s more effective for them as they start up again reduce the feelings of isolation increase the collaboration share the value of their knowledge with each other. It’s quite a remarkable change in the traditional Executive Suite, but I think it serves such a bigger purpose in Tucson and other communities.

Tom Heath: And where can people get information in general about Anexo or any of your projects?

Katina Koller:

Tom Heath: I love that. So you’re basically saying look we’re stop on your path to success. So you come in here and get what you need. But then move on and free up the space for someone else.

Katina Koller: Yeah, the ethos is, we’ll meet you wherever you are and serve you however you need and ideally that’s the Catalyst for your next step in your in your growth process.

Tom Heath: That was Katina Kohler co-founder of a co-working campus coming to Barrio Viejo two of the three facilities are in place. We also had actually the Russo of Rue events who programs and manages those spaces. Well, my name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown

Tom Heath: Episode 98 is now complete and we’re going to leave you today with music by LaLo Guerrero. He is a Tucsonan considered by many as the father of the Chicano music movement and we’ll have more on his life and influence in the Latin music scene coming up in September. And I’m going to leave you today with a song he performed in 2000, just five years before his passing.

Tom Heath: He sings of his old neighborhood, Barrio Viejo he recorded a time when it looked like the Barrio would fall victim to age and decay, just as Lalo was entering the final stages of his life, so too did it seem for Barrio Viejo in the year 2000. And just like the legacy of LaLo Carrera lives on so does The Rebirth of his community?

Tom Heath: This is the English version. You can also listen to a Spanish rendition on his album Vamos a Bailar Otra Vez, Let’s Go Dancing Once Again. I hope you have a great week into next Sunday for more Life Along the Streetcar.

Lalo Guerrero: I went back to my old body back to the old neighborhood. Where I grew up as a child from sweet youth to manhood all that’s left Turtle only ruins of the many happy homes. Of the warm and loving families who embraced me as their own. Everybody know each other. As I’d walk to school each day. I would read the net Juanita how our Crown Rose and Jose.

Lalo Guerrero: At three o’clock in the morning, we would go out serenading outside. My beloved’s window the dream that I had been dating strolling down old Convent Street stands a wall. They somehow missed. In stands as a monument. To the first girl I kissed. from Mayer Street to a lawyer to the irrigation ditch where we’d all go skinny-dipping with diamond without a snitch. old neighborhood Lottery of EF Now we both have gotten old. People think that we are useless. No one wants us anymore. Why don’t we just die together? Be buried in Hallowed Ground right here in our dear old body of where memories of Youth about.

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Tom Heath - Senior Loan Officer with Nova Home Loans