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Real Estate

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Downtown blooming Kochava, BGH investments spur vitality By Chris Bessler

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t’s a trend that has decimated the downtown cores of too many rural towns: The advent of big box stores and changing consumer patterns have made business for the retailers in small downtown districts difficult if not impossible. Those market forces have produced high vacancy rates in hollowed-out downtowns across the country. It’s true here, too; the arrival of Walmart, then Home Depot and Staples in Ponderay plus the draw of many other big discounters in Coeur d’Alene took a toll on the downtown’s vitality and increased vacancies. But in Sandpoint a combination of deliberate planning and effort by city leaders and the commitment and investment of individual businesses seemingly has the downtown on the cusp of a new era. That’s a bet that Charles and Kimberly Manning are making in the purchase and renovation of the former Bonner Building at Church Street and Second Avenue, as headquarters for their fast-growing mobile analytics company, Kochava. Kochava is no retailer; it develops high-tech software and employs some 55 developers, designers, engineers, marketers and analysts locally. But by locating in the downtown, Kochava brings all those workers into the core each day, where they inevitably shop the stores, frequent the cafes and coffee shops and patronize the service providers. The Mannings have actually kept their business in the core for 10 years now. The couple came to Sandpoint from Washington, D.C., and Charles launched a gaming software company called PlayXpert in 2006. Kimberly, a graphic designer, ran her own 116 Design studio. They worked from a small building on Second Avenue. Manning wound up selling PlayXpert as the recession took hold; his company shrunk into contracting to build mobile apps for brands and agencies. In that work he discovered a market need for analytics to measure media advertising on mobile devices. He founded Kochava in 2011, and as the company began growing, it moved first to Sand Creek Landing on First Avenue and then to the Columbia Bank building on Church Street, where Kochava currently occupies 13,000 120

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Kochava crew at their new home, above, prior to renovation. At top, rendering of planned renovation of the building at the corner of Church and Second

square feet. The company wants to provide for future needs now. When it moves into its new two-story building this summer, Kochava will have some 30,000 square feet available after two phases of construction. “It allows us to have measured growth without having to worry about disjointed teams,” Manning said. “You start to split it up, and all of a sudden you have an ‘us-and-them’ and people working in these pods. So we are trying to be intentional about how we continue to maintain community.” The new building will also allow Kochava to incorporate flourishes for its employees. There will be an 80-occupant amphitheater for company gatherings, a kitchen and “Red Star” lounge, sleeping pods and showers for developers who often work long and odd hours. There’s an adjoining parking lot with bike garage for staffers who ride to work. The exterior design will utilize a piping motif, symbolic of the flow of data that is integral in the software business. To attract and retain employees, high-tech firms like Google and Microsoft have extensive campuses loaded with perquisites for workers. In Manning’s view, the downtown can match that – and more. “I’ve always talked about how the town is like our Googleplex,” he said. “We can leverage the town as our campus.” With the many restaurants, shops and services within

SUMMER 2016

5/12/16 9:23 AM

Profile for Keokee :: media + marketing

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...

Profile for keokee