A historic filling station in Dayton, Ky., has a new lease on life with the grand opening of The Garage, an on-demand short-term rental space. Featuring attractive amenities and maximum flexibility in both indoor and outdoor areas, The Garage meets the current need for safe meeting and work space.
The Garage is the first formal property development project of YARD & Company, a local firm that consults in community design and development projects nationwide. At the most basic level, YARD says they “help organizations build amazing places.”
YARD was founded by Joe Nickol and Kevin Wright. In 2016, the two co-authored the Neighborhood Playbook, “a field guide for community members and developers that facilitates the activation of spaces with the goal of influencing physical and economic growth in neighborhoods.” The Playbook set the course for their collaboration as YARD.
Nickol came to Cincinnati from Pittsburgh, Penn. and, before YARD, he was with the architecture firm MKSK as a senior urban design and development strategist. Wright worked as executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation from 2011-2018. They co-founded YARD & Company in 2018.
Nickol and Wright, both residents of Bellevue in Northern Kentucky, had no formal relationship with the city of Dayton. But they’d seen the old filling station on Sixth Avenue and knew it was the perfect venue for their particular model of community development.
When the previous tenant, clothier Native One, moved out to open shop in Over-the-Rhine, they jumped on the opportunity to move in. Nickol, principal and director of design and development, says that the building was impossible to pass up and the concept came together for very practical reasons — they wanted a flexible office space. The YARD staff had been working from home for months and were ready to have a space where they could get together to work. But they didn’t intend to keep the place to themselves.
“Part of our work is tracking impacts that things like the pandemic have on places,” Nickol explains. “There’s no mystery that the work life/home life balance has all been renegotiated in the past year. We’ve created new habits and new preferences. Employers are saving millions of dollars keeping people home. And while employees like the flexibility of being at home and they’re in no hurry to get back to the office on a permanent basis, they love their neighborhood and they want to get out of their house and walk to work, maybe have a place to go twice a week, a space where they can connect.”
The building was purchased in October 2020 and, since flexibility is inherent in the design concept, it required minimal work to outfit for their needs. The Garage offers three distinct spaces — the Station, Commons, and Garage. Renters can reserve one or more of these spaces with the click of a button in a reservation portal similar to something like Airbnb.
The Garage feels like the most like a traditional rental space, with indoor seating and designated restrooms. The building features an overhead door that can opened to the Commons, which is the outdoor patio-like space. And the Station is a small building perfect for pop-up retail or small-format food service (such as an espresso or snack bar). Together, the three spaces create a lot of possibilities.
To date, The Garage has hosted professional development meetings, drive-thru kids’ birthday parties, food truck events, and more. The options for private and community events, Nickol says, are endless, as is the potential for replicating the Garage concept in other places.
He also says that the future of the work environment is changing and it’s possible that large employers could adapt this flexible workplace concept to their own needs. It would keep their staff safe at home, while still remaining connected to coworkers and to their community. And if that’s the future of “office,” YARD is ready to help make it happen.