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Creative "Incubator" Preparing for Launch

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That community, Stuchell says, is diverse. It consists of entrepreneurs and innovators, people who work in such fields as the arts and technology, and young professionals between the ages of 25 and 34.

C3, she says, is designed to help those people connect with each other, build relationships, develop themselves, learn about events in the metro area and have a place where they can come to work, hang out and get inspired.

She asks, "You know how much business happens at Starbucks in this city?" Creatives, she says, have been craving a place to call their own — with easy parking, wireless Internet access and a comfortable atmosphere.

The answer, she says, is C3, a 5,000-square-foot space a floor above creative consultancy Play at 1801 E. Cary St.

Once complete, the area — which accommodates about 115 people — will include a moveable stage with 60 seats, a kitchen, a creative library, a small meeting area and "toolkits" that promote exercises in stimulating creativity. The space is also available for rent too — ranging from $200 to $800.

"Being in the creative community, you can feel isolated in Richmond," says local interior designer Chris McCray. "A lot of times, I have to go away to get refueled."

In October 2003, McCray was one of the people who joined "Group," an informal association of creatives that met to help focus the C3 idea of Play's Chief Operating Officer, Bob Mooney, and its founder, Andy Stefanovich.

Meanwhile, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Richmond Partnership and other local organizations were discussing the importance of a "creative class." Academician Richard Florida, who wrote a book on the subject, spoke here. And Richmond Renaissance was talking up a study about attracting young professionals.

C3 began quietly operating earlier this year. Groups already have rented space there. But a more formal launch, set for October, was delayed by the Bottom's flood.

Now they're getting down to business, seeking to market themselves, fill out a 40-member board led by Mooney, and finalizing funding for $100,000 in capital expenses and a $200,000 annual operating budget.

"We love Richmond and we want to see it grow," Stuchell says. Eventually, she thinks C3 can help the Richmond metro area become the "creative knowledge base of the mid-Atlantic." — Jason Roop



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