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An office port for storm’s unplugged

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Vera Baker
Financial planner Vera Baker uses donated office space in Mount Vernon to do business while waiting for power at her Fleetwood home.

Vera Baker, an independent financial planner, found a port – a USB port – in the wake of the storm that left her without power for more than 10 days and threatened her retirement planning business in Mount Vernon.

Baker, who operates Securities America Inc. from her home in Fleetwood, had been without electricity for several days when she learned about a temporary working solution through the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was working with owners of the extensively renovated Roosevelt Square Professional Office Building to assist small business owners, home-based businesses and entrepreneurs in the city with free Internet access, office space and equipment during the outage.

Once a blighted property in a prominent downtown location, the five-story office building at 11 W. Prospect Ave. reopened last year as a provider of shared business space. It occupies a corner on the city’s busy civic hub that includes Mount Vernon City Hall and City Court and Mount Vernon Hospital.

The owner, Kerry Development L.L.C. in Yonkers, paid $1.65 million to acquire the building four years ago. Partners have invested $1.5 million to $2 million in renovations, said Kenneth Plummer, a minority partner in the Roosevelt Square office business and owner of Kensworth Consulting.

“It was a hellhole,” Plummer said of the building’s condition when acquired by the new owners, who also operate Kerry Realty and Kerry Catskills, luxury log-home rental properties in rural Delaware County.

The building currently is only 25 percent leased by businesses renting permanent, temporary or virtual office space, said Plummer. He is leading a rebranding effort for the building. “We’re going to make it a regional center where forward thinkers and creative individuals can collaborate and network,” he said.

With networking events and seminars, Plummer said he wanted to create “a loving business environment” at the Roosevelt Square building. “From a business standpoint, we’re looking to be the center of business in Mount Vernon.”

For shared office space, “This is the only game in town,” said Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce President Frank Fraley. The chamber, operating without a physical office, is preparing to open new headquarters in a former bank building at 66 Mount Vernon Ave. that the chamber acquired from the city in foreclosure.

“This office has been a huge asset to entrepreneurs like myself,” said Fraley, whose company, Noah Consulting Inc., pursues property tax reductions for commercial and residential clients. Since its office doors were opened to storm victims, “So far several members of this community have had the opportunity to keep their businesses going,” he said.

“It’s a great building,” said attorney Danna Wood, who rents a permanent office in the Mount Vernon center and a virtual office in White Plains. “It has all the amenities.”

“This building I see as a strong statement about Mount Vernon and its ability to welcome and accommodate professionals,” said Wood.

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