Bitwise Industries is about to turn the notion of leasable office space and 9-to-5 workdays on its ear.
On Tuesday, the Fresno-based workspace innovator, already a growing presence in Bakersfield, announced its acquisition of two centrally located, near-century-old downtown buildings — and its intent to transform and enliven the city's central district like nothing before.
Bitwise has purchased both the old Turk's Kern Copy building at the southwest corner of 18th and H streets, directly south of the Padre Hotel, and the old Vincent's Cyclery & Sporting Goods building two doors down, at 1723 18th St., company CEO Jake Soberal said Tuesday.
"We're building onramps to industry for people who have traditionally been left out," Soberal said.
After a six-month renovation that will include "reimagining the exterior" in a dramatic way, Soberal said, the Turk's building at 1701 18th St. will open in the second quarter of 2020. The old Vincent's building, directly across the street from the Merle Haggard U.S. Post Office, will come online sometime soon after.
The Turk's building, 15,520 square feet and built in 1923, and Vincent's, 21,646 square feet and built in 1930, will lease out co-working spaces and offices for high-tech and entrepreneurial operations, buzzing with round-the-clock energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Geekwise Academy, Bitwise's programming school, will also take up residence, as will the company's software subsidiary, Shift3 Technologies.
Also among the tenants: Crusader Brewing, whose owners, Chris McEnulty and Bailey Hale, will operate a tap room right at the corner of 18th and H. Seventeen-oh-one will also feature fenced-in outdoor seating around back with an event stage for live entertainment.
"This has been made only more exciting by being across the street from The Padre. It's a great location, walkable to city hall, walkable to restaurants like 1800," said Soberal, who noted that interior demo will begin at 1701 this week or next.
The 18th Street buildings are separated somewhat awkwardly by the single-room-occupancy Porterfield Hotel, at 1715 18th. Logic suggests, and Soberal does not deny, that Bitwise could one day own all three, giving the company that entire side of the block, except for Locale Farm to Table, a lunch spot at 18th and G streets.
"We are interested in other properties," he said. "Yeah, it's an obvious possibility, but we'll have our hands full for a little while."
The Vincent's building, which sold on Oct. 22 for $885,000, according to public records, was owned for 40 years by Vincent Clerou, who opened Vincent's Cyclery in 1934 and soon expanded it to include general sporting goods and a lock and safe business; he died in 1996 and the building was sold the following year. It was most recently In Your Wildest Dreams, an antique store which has since moved to 19th. For a time it was slated to become a Bowen's Whiskey distillery but the owners pulled out, citing overly burdensome red-tape constraints.
The Turk's building was assessed at $950,000 in 2018, according to public records.
Bitwise will release more details about the project, including "huge" renderings, Soberal said, at noon Saturday at its 59 Days of Coding awards event hosted by World Records, 2815 F St.
Since first announcing its intention to move into Bakersfield in 2018, the company's first venture outside its founding base, "we have fallen only more in love with Bakersfield," said Soberal, who co-founded his company with Irma L. Olguin Jr. in 2013.
"It's so easy to get lost in the buildings themselves," he said, "but those buildings are not possible unless the whole community is acting with extraordinary enthusiasm."
In a press release, the company noted further that "the Bakersfield buildings will have similar amenities as the Bitwise’s Fresno locations, but with a local twist. In Fresno, Bitwise has produced more than 1,000 new software developers, attracted over 200 technology companies to its facilities, contributed to the creation of thousands of jobs in the region, and turned 250,000 square feet of previously blighted downtown buildings into desirable commercial real estate."
"The company's approach of weaving together training and education, with software development and commercial activity in a common physical space has proven to revitalize communities,” Olguin said in the press release. "Our commitment to Bakersfield is based on our shared belief that Bitwise can help create a thriving economy.”
Bitwise will inherit a solid foundation of built-in office and residential traffic, which is only likely to grow. Andrae Gonzales, the Bakersfield City Council member who represents downtown, has said previously that 25,000 people work downtown from 9 to 5. He added that the city wants to increase downtown's residential population from 5,000 to 10,000 by 2030.
This story has been updated to clarify the history of the Vincent's building.