With the opening of the new Cal Poly Lofts in downtown San Luis Obispo, the Mustang community now has more options to help student entrepreneurs develop their business ideas and connect with alumni.
On Oct. 21, University Housing officially opened the Cal Poly Lofts with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong cut the ribbon alongside representatives from Cal Poly, the San Luis Obispo City Council and the new student residents. Associate Director of Housing and head of the Loft project Carole Schaffer explained its purpose.
“It’s an intentional living community that’s in collaboration with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship [CIE],” Schaffer said. “We designed it to attract mostly juniors and seniors with an interest in focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation.”
The building has a square footage of about 12,100 square feet and currently houses 35 Cal Poly students from all different majors. There are studio, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments available for lease that all come completely furnished. It is located on Chorro Street, across the street from the San Luis Obispo HotHouse, a space for entrepreneurs to work and collaborate.
Some students that live at the Lofts already have begun to bounce ideas back and forth. Aerospace engineering senior Tyler Miles explained one of the ideas he has already heard.
“One of the dudes around here and I were talking last night, and he’s like ‘What if we made a way to make the election non-partisan?’” Miles said. “He had this all thought out, but I would have to say it was one of the craziest [ideas].”
There are not just ideas flowing around the complex, but some students have already created their own businesses and continue to expand them. Business administration senior Matthew Maxwell, a current resident of the Lofts, founded an electric bike rental company, BoltAbout.com in March. He said his company rents out about 100 electric bikes a month for Cal Poly students to use around the community. Maxwell addressed the benefits of living at the Lofts for his business.
“It’s incredibly helpful to live downtown because the HotHouse is right across the street,” Maxwell said. “Also when we are raising money from investors, it’s great to first invite them over to the Lofts to show them this unique living environment, then take them across the street and give them a tour of our office and then within a minute walk from the HotHouse and the Lofts are three to five awesome coffee shops where you can sit down and talk about the business.”
Other students such as environmental management and protection junior Brittany Fox are excited for the opportunities that will arise to better her own career.
“I think it will be great for relationship building,” Fox said. “Also just to see how ideas become a creation.”
Another benefit for students living at the Lofts is that the Alumni Relations office will be moving some of their operations to this location. Assistant Vice President of Alumni Outreach Ellen Cohune said the new office will help connect Cal Poly to its alumni in the downtown area. However, they are not abandoning the Alumni House on campus.
“We are going to retain some space in the Albert B. Smith Alumni Center on campus,” Cohune said. “So some of us are going to share some time in between the two locations. We think it’s important to still have a presence on campus for our alumni.”
The alumni section of the Lofts will not officially open until spring of next year. But Cohune said with this being part of the Loft project, CIE almuni will see all the projects the entrepreneurs are working on.
Armstrong is excited to have the Lofts because they go along with Cal Poly’s mission of Learn by Doing.
“Having our Alumni Center downtown will be a great connector for the city and also fostering more economic development, more students downtown and more entrepreneurial activity at the HotHouse,” Armstrong said. “The main thing is Cal Poly’s presence downtown providing the students with a safe space to be more innovative and to be more entrepreneurial.”
Schaffer hopes the collaboration done at the Lofts will create something impactful for Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo.
“The next big business idea could come right out of the Lofts,” Schaffer said.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Allie Burnett and Heather McMillan will be live-in professionals at the Lofts. They will not be live-in professionals.