Natalie Cofield, founder and CEO of Urban Co-Lab, courtesy photo

Natalie Cofield, founder and CEO of Urban Co-Lab, courtesy photo

In a former brothel and gas station in Austin’s East 12th Street Business District, Urban Co-Lab plans to create a center for entrepreneurial activity and innovation.

The coworking site is the brainchild of Natalie Cofield, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Black Chamber, founder of Walker’s Legacy and now CEO of the Urban Co-Lab.

Hanna Jamal, co-founder of Urban Co-Lab

Hanna Jamal, co-founder of Urban Co-Lab

Cofield and co-founder Hanna Jamal want to make Urban Co-Lab into the business centerpiece of a historic, yet once crime-ridden neighborhood. They want the business to serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the neighborhood, which once served as home to the center of the city’s African American and Hispanic communities and many businesses and entrepreneurs. The neighborhood fell into hard times during the economic downturn in the ‘80s.

Mission Possible Ministries bought the building and ran a coffee shop on the site for the homeless. Urban Co-Lab is renting the building from the church.

Urban Co-Lab isn’t a typical coworking site. It is also an incubator for “Urban Innovators” to help create companies focused on finding scalable solutions to education, housing and transportation problems that plague most big cities. They want to tackle big problems. It’s all about including the community in the process, Cofield said.

“We’re creating space for urban innovators and we’re one of them too,” she said.

Urban Co-Lab has already developed a partnership with Huston-Tillotson University to provide college internships for honors students to work with startup founders based at the coworking space, Cofield said.

IMG_2992The coworking space doesn’t officially launch until Sept. 9th, but next Tuesday from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., Urban Co-Lab is having a soft launch with a pre-sales tour and meetup. The coworking site rents dedicated desks for individuals and teams.

The Urban Co-Lab also has dedicated space for up to four food truck businesses. It already has one space filled by the 12th Street Bakery.

“I think the big niche for us is we’re in an up and coming area for Austin,” Cofield said.

Urban Co-Lab is also running an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for its urban revitalization project. It has raised $3,360 of its $20,000 goal with 12 days left to go in its campaign. And it is hiring a community manager for the site.

“We’re excited about this and looking forward to building a great community,” Cofield said. “We’re seeking partners and sponsors to continue building out our effort.”