Lansing Office Works to offer co-working space and opportunities for entrepreneurs, small business owners and remote workers

Making it “work”... Local entrepreneur Maryann Baldwin is ready to open her dream-project of Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab at the former Grand Central Station restaurant location on Main Street in Lansing. In addition to restoring the historic building, including the 100-plus year old door in this photo, Baldwin also hopes to enhance business opportunities with the services the new business will provide. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Interior layout ... The design sketch pictured above shows the layout of the new Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab scheduled to be open in September by local entrepreneur Maryann Baldwin. The new business designed to help other businesses, entrepreneurs and dreamers in pursuing their goals offers a variety of workspace and services focused on helping others succeed in business endeavors. Submitted image.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Another new business is preparing to open on Lansing’s Main Street.

That is good news, in itself; but it gets better - because this business, a co-working space conceived on a membership model, is opening a place for multiple entrepreneurs, small business owners and, of particular note in the face of a changing workforce, remote workers to have a workplace outside their homes without having to purchase or rent “brick-and-mortar” spaces of their own.

Called Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab, it’s the dream-project of Maryann Baldwin, former owner of the Lansing Fitness Center. “When someone becomes a member of a co-working space, it’s a mix of being in a place to work that says, ‘I’m going to get down to business now,’ while enjoying all the benefits of a workplace - with people you see every day, plus services and events that help members pursue their personal and work goals,” Baldwin says. “We know professionals are more often allowed to work remotely - based on technology and accelerated by the pandemic - and we also know that more people than ever before are forming their own LLCs in order to start businesses and have more control over their work hours and life/work balance,” she says.

The growing number of co-working spaces across the country is a response to people having more choices around making a living, Baldwin notes. The ability to work remotely is freeing workers from having to live in a large or specific city and to pursue a role as their own boss; and these spaces offer opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams for a business that meets a need in their communities.

“Finding the Rural Ideas Network (, which offers a Rural Coworking Accelerator program (, and my own desire to see 274 Main Street occupied again, gave me the push to give it a try in Lansing,” Baldwin says. “I have joined the Rural Coworking Accelerator program which will provide many of the resources I will need to launch and operate the business.”

Jordan DeGree, founder and executive team member of Rural Ideas Network, says that “coworking spaces like Lansing Office Works provide entrepreneurs, remote workers, and existing businesses with professional-quality workspace, networking opportunities, and programming aimed at helping the businesses they serve thrive.”

Baldwin says Lansing is an ideal place for her new business. “People who know Lansing and Allamakee County from their past visits or from growing up here are aspiring to move here and bring their jobs with them, because they can,” she says. “That’s why our tag line is ‘Work where you play.’ You can wrap up your workday at Lansing Office Works and in minutes be out on the river, hiking a trail, or enjoying your backyard.”

Baldwin’s limited liability company (LLC), Driftless Wellness, was awarded $15,000 from the Rural Innovation Project Grant program from the Iowa Economic Development Authority for the Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab project.

“I’m especially honored because there were 17 non-housing grants issued statewide, and I’m one of the only private enterprises that received a grant,” Baldwin says. “I think the combination of revitalizing an empty space on Main Street and the launch of a new business that is focused on helping other new businesses come to life was appealing to those judging the grants, or at least I hope so! … The fact that the Iowa Economic Development Authority sees what we are doing in Lansing and believes in it, is a huge boost as we work through the renovation and work towards opening the new business.”

The New Albin Improvement League (NAIL) and the City of Postville were the other grant recipients in Allamakee County.

Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab will inhabit the main floor of the building at 274 Main Street, the former Grand Central Station restaurant, which has been sitting vacant for seven years. After driving past the building for so long and noticing that no one seemed interested in purchasing it, Baldwin thought, “why not me?”

It has been a fairly massive undertaking, getting the space ready for the new business; it involved a combination of tearing down and - for lack of a better term, bringing back. “We’re restoring parts of the space to their original forms, namely the beautiful original pressed tin ceiling,” Baldwin notes. “That was all covered up by the structure for the (restaurant) booths in the west half of the building.” The front door, too, has been completely rehabilitated - 100-plus years of paint have been removed and a new coat of stain has returned it to its original beauty.

Prior to being converted to a restaurant, the building was home to the Lansing Redemption Center. “We cleaned out the last of the nooks and crannies and came up with a few dozen bottles and cans left behind on top of an old bank vault,” Baldwin says - including old Spring Grove soda pop bottles the redemption center left behind. For before and in-progress photos and videos, visit the business Facebook page at

The new space includes multiple outlets for charging and recharging batteries, wifi, and “plenty of ethernet ports for those who require a secure, dedicated internet connections for their online work,” Baldwin notes. Additionally, having decided to keep intact the building’s commercial kitchen infrastructure, Baldwin will later be opening Lansing Kitchen Works: People will be able to rent the kitchen space for small-scale catering, or to make large batches of food products for retail sale.

Coffee and tea are included in every membership, along with access to a breakroom kitchen where members can store and prepare lunch or snacks. “And if someone is curious about what it’s like to work there, we’ll have a ‘Free Coworking Friday’ each month where people can come in and work for the day,” Baldwin says. “We’ll also have day and week passes for out-of-towners looking to mix a little business with pleasure – and we will be a member of the Coworking Visa program that allows members to use other Coworking Visa locations throughout the world for up to three free days when traveling.”

Among the first members of Lansing Office Works is Main Street Lansing, who will be renting one of the three private office spaces available in the building.

“When Main Street Lansing was presented with a proposal to move our office into the new Lansing Office Works space, we immediately saw numerous benefits,” says Main Street Lansing Executive Director Andy Kelleher. “In addition to quantifiable benefits like supplies and better heating capacity, occupying the new space will also allow us to work side-by-side with new entrepreneurs and start-ups. We can offer direct assistance as these businesses grow.”

Kelleher says he is happy to see the building at 274 Main Street being utilized. “Having sat vacant since I was in high school, the former Grand Central Station was a difficult space to fill,” he says. “Many potential business owners determined that they could not make a restaurant viable in that space; and without an occupant, the building severely impacted foot traffic on the north side of the 200 block of Main Street. Maryann’s vision of a collaborative office environment is just what the building needed, and hopefully it breathes new life into both the space and the community as a whole.”

With its recent awarding of a STEM BEST Grant (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; BEST: Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers), the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) will be working in partnership with Baldwin and utilizing the conference room at Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab.

According to a recent article by Susan Cantine-Maxson in The Standard, “the (STEM BEST) grant supports school-business partnerships on curriculum and projects. There were 22 grants awarded statewide.” In addition to Lansing Office Works, the article notes the school district also will be partnering with “Main Street Lansing, the Rural Iowa Business Association, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) and Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA).”

Kee High School/Middle School Principal Sarah Updegraff says the STEM BEST Grant will assist with the district’s community partnership program, started last semester, which strives to connect local business and industry partners with students in grades 9-12 of all ability levels and academic status.

“We believe that as we ask kids to do more ‘adult-like’ work, it is important that they are in spaces where they can be treated and behave as entrepreneurs and work hand-in-hand with the community to change the world around us,” Updegraff says. “We are so excited for Lansing Office Works to share space with us. Our kids plan to be in the space at least an hour a day to work on passion-driven projects to improve the community.”

Memberships will be accepted beginning next Wednesday, September 1. For information about specific offers, membership levels and services offered, go to The Lansing Office Works + Innovation Lab facility opens to members September 21.