Don’t make the mistake of believing American Underground is simply expanding. Rather, what’s unfolding in Durham is something different for coworking space with a new brand as the AU aims to ensure that Durham remains a hot place for startups.

In am exclusive Q&A WTW Insider interview, the American Underground’s chief strategist said the AU is introducing a “new product offering for a new audience” with its soon-to-open Gridworks in Durham.

AU will launch additional coworking space in Durham in March, utilizing some 7,000 square feet of space in the historic S.H. Kress & Co. building, which was built in 1933..

Called “Gridworks,” the new effort is the latest in a series of projects developed by AU, which is based at the American Tobacco Historic District. AU is part of Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL TechWire.

Here’s our Q&A:

  • Why did AU decide to expand? With so much shared space coming on the market, is supply of space exceeding demand?

This isn’t an expansion of the American Underground rather the launch of a new product offering for a new audience. We are taking what we’ve learned in running a space for entrepreneurs and building a community for businesses and applying that in a new format for a different audience–freelancers and professionals.

We are intentionally launching this new brand because we think this new audience of businesses will need a somewhat different space and set of resources than what a technology startup might.

While there are some expansions of coworking space for these type of businesses and professionals in Raleigh, there aren’t any, to our knowledge in downtown Durham.

  • How is AU setting itself apart from the growing number of rivals for this market?

We bring six years of experience running a shared office and coworking space in downtown Durham. With that experience is a vast business and resource network and engagement of our community that isn’t easily replicated. Our space will be uniquely Durham in its vibe, embedded in our community and take on a more professional feel for client meetings and the like.

  • Why are entrepreneurs continuing to pick Durham as a place to launch and grow their businesses?

Durham has gone from a sleepy Southern city to a top rated community for entrepreneurs. Much of that growth is because Durham is a unique community with access to area universities and the talent they produce. Durham also possesses a dense, well connected business community in downtown.

We think Gridworks brings a new and exciting dimension to this growing downtown by providing a place for these freelancers and professionals to call home. It’s why we talk about Durham already being a coworking space–and that Gridworks is where you plug into it.

  • Have you seen any changes in trends among the types of startups since AU launched in 2010? More or less tech?

We are seeing more consumer product companies in the past 12 months which is what led us to launch the Startup Stampede incubator this year. In addition, we’re seeing some increase in the number of startups being incubated inside of traditional software consultancies. This approach allows founders to continue earning a market-rate paycheck through their software consultancy while applying their expertise and extra hours to a startup.

  • Do startup founders appear to becoming more diverse and if so why do you think that’s happening? Does AU use its strength in that regard as a recruiting tool?

Our 2016 Annual Report showed an increase in the diversity of founders in the American Underground. We now count nearly 50 percent of our teams led by women and founders of color.

Two years ago, we set out to build the country’s most diverse technology hub and have taken that goal seriously. It runs through every role on our team and the initiatives we run. In the past year, we’ve continued in and grown our partnership with CODE2040 and its entrepreneur in residence program (Doug Speight is current EIR, a third generation Black founder with a family legacy on Black Wall St) and launched the Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange program, focused on Black Founders.

In these ways and others, we hope to create a new paradigm for who is starting a tech company and the support they receive.