De­mand for cowork­ing space grows

Flex­i­bil­ity and ac­com­mo­da­tions key to at­tract­ing busi­ness

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sunday Business - By Paul Schott

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.”

Ro­bust de­mand

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.”

Michael Cummo / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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