Demand for coworking space grows
Flexibility and accommodations key to attracting business
The shared-workspace model continues to gain momentum, as shown by the recent opening of an Office Evolution franchise at 750 E. Main St., on the edge of downtown Stamford.
Coworking managers and members cite the hubs’ flexible and welcoming accommodations as major draws. Spurred by such enthusiasm, the coworking trend will likely continue to gather pace, though it still accounts for a small portion of the overall office market.
“There are plenty of places people can work — they could work in a coffee shop,” Nicole Maddox, coowner of the Stamford Office Evolution franchise, said in an interview last week. “But that’s not necessarily where you’re going to want to meet your clients. You’re going to want to give legitimacy to your business by being in an actual office space.”
Reasons for coworking
Launched in late February, Office Evolution’s center covers about 10,000 square feet on the sixth floor of 750 E. Main St.
It includes 34 private and furnished offices, a large, shared lounge and several conference rooms. Like other coworking spaces, the offices are open 24-7 to members.
“It’s an extremely flexible model,” Maddox said. “We have people who have signed up for a year. We have people who are going month to month. … The commitment level is whatever people want it to be.”
Maddox and fellow franchise owner Rochelle Dede, who met when they previously practiced corporate law at the same firm, plan to open four other Office Evolution franchises in the Northeast. Nationwide, the Office Evolution network includes 72 locations across 25 states.
Dede and Maddox said they see their first franchise as unique, citing a package of amenities including free coffee, tea and water; inbuilding gym access; and shuttle service to the downtown Metro-North station. They also highlight the offices’ sweeping views of the city and interior design.
“I think when you walk through our doors, you’ll be impressed by the lobby and accent walls, with the modern decor and high ceilings,” Dede said. “It’s any place you would love to have your guests and clients come as an individual working here.”
Members include professionals in law, medicine, food service, lighting and IT.
“I usually work from home, but this is a good way to get out and meet and talk with new people,” said Purvi Shah, a software engineer who lives in Stamford. “I come three to four times a week. I appreciate the amenities such as the free coffee, parking, gym and Wi-Fi.”
Other coworking centers in Stamford are growing their operations.
In the city’s South End, at 700 Canal St., Serendipity Labs has expanded in the past year from some 13,000 square feet to about 22,000 square feet. Members represent industries including financial services, technology, health care and consumer goods.
Nearly two years after opening, occupancy runs at about 90 percent. More than 125 Serendipity Labs complexes are under development in cities across the country.
“It’s a very successful location for us, and we’re very glad we did the expansion,” said Serendipity Labs CEO John Arenas. “We’re building a bigger, more vibrant community of trusted knowledge workers who are enjoying the use of the labs for events, drop-in coworking and corporate off-site meetings.”
Across the street from Serendipity, at 845 Canal St., stands another coworking center, Comradity.
At 290 Harbor Drive, in the city’s Shippan section, the approximately 15,000square-foot Workpoint center hosts about 40 firms, two and a half years after opening. Its occupants include digital-marketing and medical-software companies, as well as businesses focusing on television production that use Workpoint’s TV studio.
“We were the first coworking space in Stamford, and now we have many other coworking spaces moving into the area,” said Sheelah Quinn, Workpoint’s general manager. “It tells us the marketplace is strong for coworking and flexible office space. We expect the industry to continue to grow rapidly and expect Fortune 500 companies to start looking at organizing their workforce in flex spaces, which will help these companies’ bottom lines.”
Other shared workspaces in the city include Stark Office Suites at 243 Tresser Blvd., and Regus centers at 263 Tresser Blvd., and 1266 E. Main St.
Promising, but modest market segment
City and state officials have welcomed the growth of coworking hubs, saying they demonstrate the dynamism of the business communities in Stamford and the state’s other major cities.
A report released in April by Stamford-based IT consulting and research firm Gartner also cited the potential of shared workspaces.
“Coworking spaces should not be approached as a oneoff activity based on reaching a critical mass of employees in a geographic center,” the report said in part. “Instead, it should be treated as a true portfolio strategy component.”
While they continue to grow in popularity, coworking centers represent a niche, comprising less than 1 percent of Stamford’s total office space, according to a number of estimates.
“They’re not taking massive chunks of space, so they’re not going to make a big blip on the radar, unless someone like WeWork came in and took a big chunk,” said Christian Bangert, executive vice president at Stamfordbased commercial real estate firm Rhys. “Boutique markets like Darien and Westport could see more of these spaces, and I think we could see a couple more in the bigger office markets like Stamford and Norwalk. I don’t think we’ve yet reached a saturation point.”
Office Evolution franchise co-owners Nicole Maddox, right, and Rochelle Dede at the new Office Evolution coworking center at 750 E. Main St. in Stamford on Wednesday.
A work area at Evolution’s new coworking center.