Clovis News

Incubator-style offices debut in Fresno

The new owners of the former Southern Pacific Railroad Depot in downtown Fresno celebrated their new spin on the traditional office Monday.

Robert E. Ellis, a Fresno leasing agent, and his family bought the building that sits on Tulare Avenue just west of the Greyhound bus station.

They hired Clovis-based OfficeBay to manage the property, bringing its brand of incubator-style offices to the 122-year-old building.

"We're especially proud to open it in the spring of 2011 when there's not a lot of new projects opening," said OfficeBay founder Case Lawrence. The company has similar setups in Clovis.

The train station has been used as offices for years -- and 15 existing tenants remain -- but OfficeBay brings a focus on incubator-style offices.

Rent for the 37 offices is month-to-month. And the offices come with desks, wireless Internet, phones and other features that allow a business to move in without a large, upfront cost, said chief executive David Mason.

Four "virtual offices" for tenants who don't need a full-time space include phone, Internet and use of a copy machine, printer and mailbox.

The Ellis family paid for renovations like knocking down walls around the conference rooms and replacing them with glass walls. The conference rooms can be rented by the hour.

The original brick and old windows remain, but new paint and carpeting were added.

And a red golf cart with the OfficeBay logo on it is available for tenants to take to nearby courthouses.

The Ellis family bought the depot last month after a lengthy escrow. The Fresno County Employees Retirement Association previously owned the building.

At the grand opening celebration Monday, Downtown & Community Revitalization Department director Craig Scharton called the building "the birthplace of Fresno."

The first depot on the site -- a small wooden structure -- was among the first buildings built in Fresno. With the railroad bringing people and freight to the site, the city sprung up around it.

The depot is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It closed as a train station in 1971. The depot has been used as offices for more than two decades.

Barbara A. Sena, a workers compensation and Social Security disability lawyer, has rented space in the building for 22 years.

"It's really amazing, the changes that they've put forth," she said.

Many offices were empty in recent years, she said.