FORT MYERS — Several organizations in Fort Myers are calling on the Collaboratory to reopen.
It’s a building that offers office space, WiFi, and other technology resources, but it’s been closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
For non-profits and small companies, it can be hard to afford office space. That’s why the Collaboratory was created. It was funded by $10 million in tax credits and $5 million in donations to be a community resource, but because of the pandemic, it’s now been closed for an entire year.
We met up with a group of women involved in three different organizations Wednesday. They were all hoping to use the Collaboratory, but got turned away.
"When I showed up and found out that it had been closed a year, that saddened my heart, because I’m not the only non-profit that uses this facility. I’m sure there are other new non-profits that are just getting started that are in need of what they have to offer," said Jennifer Tabora, who started the non-profit "Don’t Try Don’t Die", which on drug prevention.
Tabora said she’s used the Collaboratory in the past for her non-profit. She showed the other women what it looks like through the window, and they couldn't believe a lot of the space wasn't being used.
"As it being an organization that is supposed to be open to the public, and everything else is open, we believe that it should be open," said Kim Receveur, with the company "Two Girls and a Bible", which focuses on publishing Christian authors.
The Collaboratory CEO, Sarah Owen, didn’t want to be interviewed, but she told us the facility doesn’t have the staff right now to monitor groups of people to make sure they’re wearing masks and social distancing. But pandemic restrictions aren’t ending anytime soon, and Tabora hopes the building isn’t closed forever.
"We don’t have the funds to pay for an office space, even pay for WiFi. We’re doing what we can do at home," said Tabora.
"We’re collaborating already, but how great would it be to have a place where we can really collaborate," said Betty Henderson, with the Lisa Colagrassi Foundation, which focuses on promoting brain aneurysm research.
Owen said the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which operates the Collaboratory, doesn’t have a set date when it plans to reopen the building, but she said the Board of Directors reviews that decision on a monthly basis.