• Lacey Squier

Co-working space encourages economic and community development in Ely, MN


Northern Grounds and Boundary Waters Connect, a program of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, today announced their collaboration to sustain the Society Hall Workspace on the second level of Northern Grounds in Ely, MN. Society Hall Workspace is an open-plan co-working space on the second floor of an iconic historic building in Downtown Ely. It’s a beautiful, natural-light-filled space where residents and visitors can work and network with reliable high-speed internet and amenities.


Northern Grounds, a coffee, wine, and craft beer bar, launched Society Hall as a co-working space in 2020. Since then hundreds of people have capitalized on the ability to work remotely at Society Hall Workspace while visiting the region, or to step away from home offices. “We recognized an opportunity to fill a community need,” says Cindy Smyka, managing owner of Northern Grounds. “However, we needed a collaborator to ensure the future of the Society Hall Workspace.”


Boundary Waters Connect seeks to foster sustainable wilderness edge communities where you can live, work, and play. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, of which Boundary Waters Connect is a part, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protection of America’s wilderness, especially the BWCA. The Society Hall Workspace collaboration is one of many initiatives of Boundary Waters Connect, including its sponsorship of Ely’s popular community forum called Tuesday Group. Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet in a welcoming community work and gathering space is exactly the kind of opportunity Boundary Waters Connect seeks to promote economic and community development in the Ely area. Operations like Society Hall Workspace signal Ely is broadband-ready, technology-savvy, and hospitable to new and existing residents alike.


Today, Society Hall Workspace is the only available co-working space in the Ely area. Society Hall Workspace is owned and operated exclusively by Northern Grounds. This will remain unchanged under the arrangement between Northern Grounds and Boundary Waters Connect. Northern Grounds plans a number of improvements for the space to enhance its functionality for business and other users.


“We hope that Society Hall Workspace will encourage new and sustained residency in our area, incubate economic innovation, and foster entrepreneurial and interpersonal connections among users. While currently the fundamental service provided is the ability to work or study on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in a user-friendly, technologically-supportive environment, we look forward to Society Hall Workspace hosting professional, economic and community development programming and networking events as well,” says Lacey Squier, the Manager of Boundary Waters Connect.


The workspace operates daily opening with Northern Grounds and closing at 5:00pm, with potential weekend exclusions to accommodate private events. Access to the space can be obtained by purchasing a day pass or monthly/annual membership, which includes additional membership benefits. Users can purchase passes from a Northern Grounds barista on the first floor.


For more information concerning SHW please contact meet@thenortherngrounds.com, or check out the Society Hall Workspace online. To connect with Boundary Waters Connect please contact Lacey at lacey@neminnesotansforwilderness.org.

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