Bitwise Industries, Fresno's home-grown and fast-growing collection of trendy technology hubs, is adding another building to its web across downtown Fresno.
The company is opening The Hive, a 50,000-square-foot space for tech tenants inside a building that formerly served as a records warehouse and county offices at Ventura and Santa Fe streets. It is the fifth site that Bitwise has opened or is building in downtown Fresno as it strives to establish the area as a haven for technology-oriented businesses and entrepreneurs.
Nearby, Bitwise is under construction on its Bitwise 41 project in the historic Inderrieden Building, a former raisin warehouse that was later home to the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant at Ventura and R streets. It's also in the process of developing the 100-year-old former State Center Warehouse on R Street.
Bitwise is already established in its South Stadium building, a former auto dealership at Van Ness Avenue and Mono Street, as well as with its Hashtag innovation space in the basement of the old Hotel Virginia on Kern Street between Van Ness Avenue and L Street.
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The Hive has generated considerable conversation among fans of downtown because of its new and unique exterior paint scheme – a multicolored, geometric pattern of a beehive. Jake Soberal, co-CEO of Bitwise, said some tenants have already been moving into office spaces on the first and second floors at the north end of the building. In what was a vast warehouse area, more working spaces will be established – including in 18 former cargo shipping containers that will be stacked two-high to provide self-contained mini-offices.
But The Hive was not among Bitwise's initial plans as it expanded beyond its established South Stadium location that opened in 2015, not far from the Chukchansi Park baseball stadium. Soberal said Bitwise had purchased the Indirrieden and State Center warehouses for expansion "when this building came up … and there was enough tenant demand to do this along the way."
The hive theme of the exterior paint job is carried through on the inside, from the stairs leading from the indoor-outdoor lobby (with glass roll-up doors to let in plenty of light) to the first-floor offices to interior murals and decorations in the conference rooms. A common area for tenants includes tables and chairs, and a small store will sell snacks once the building is fully open by the end of June. One large room is dubbed the "desk hotel" where companies or workers can lease one of 23 individual desks as a work space rather than taking up an entire office. Between those desk-based businesses and other offices in the building, nearly 50 companies will have a presence in the building with an estimated 280 daily users coming and going, Soberal said.
One of those tenants is Dan Gustafson, owner of Sonic Bliss Productions. Gustafson moved into a small office on May 1, relocating his business and equipment creating audio branding for about 40 radio stations across the country from his home into a setting where he can meet and mingle with other technologists.
In his cozy space, jammed with audio boards, computer gear and an electronic drum kit, Gustafson creates audio effects and scripted station promo announcements for his clients – "pretty much everything that's not a DJ talking," he said.
"I wanted to get out of the house and into a space with more energy," he said. He was already familiar with Bitwise's reputation as "a cool and modern place to work" because he has a friend with a business in the South Stadium building and his daughter took a technology training class through Bitwise's Geekwise Academy.
When he called to see if there was any space available at South Stadium, he was instead referred to The Hive, and after touring the under-construction space decided to move in as one of the first tenants.
Still to come will be a rooftop deck for tenants to be able to use atop the warehouse with views of the nearby elevated Highway 41 as well as the Bitwise 41 and State Center sites.
While Bitwise began work first on the former Old Spaghetti Factory site, development of The Hive went faster because it is a much newer building with fewer of the complications that come with a historic building. For example, instead of having to retrofit old walls of unreinforced bricks, "we really just came in to do tenant improvements," Soberal said.
Between the three buildings, all of which are highly visible to drivers passing by on Highway 41, Soberal proclaimed the potential to help change the image of Fresno. "You'll only have to drive into Fresno on Highway 41 and see that something very different is happening." he said. "We've tapped a nerve" in terms of helping to spark a growing technology industry in downtown Fresno.