Cowork Centers Continue to Grow and Evolve
The metropolitan area of Hartford Connecticut has seen two coworking centers open in the past several months. Axis 901 is upstairs from an art gallery on Main Street in Manchester Connecticut. It has attracted technology startups and writers among others to open space and private offices. ReSet recently opened in downtown Hartford as part of a social enterprise incubator and community coworking space.
To get a sense of some firsthand experience of working in a coworking center I reached out to Sean Kershaw, Executive Director of the Citizens League based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The Citizens League, which I headed for 11 years before Sean, moved to the CoCo center in Saint Paul 18 months ago. The center is in a former warehouse across the street from Union Station and an upcoming light rail stop in Saint Paul.
According to Sean Kershaw there were “no downsides” to moving from their own exclusive office space to a coworking center. The coworking center “has worked well and beyond what we expected.” For the Citizens League it was a less expensive and more flexible option—not more space than our organization would need. It was as he said “in a cool old warehouse.”
Initially they were hesitant about open space, but they find private space when they need it. In his view “we keep running into interesting people. One person is working on water quality by finding ways to micro apply fertilizers to minimize agricultural runoff.” There is a choice of two related coworking centers—one in Minneapolis and in Saint Paul. According to Sean, “it is great to have a choice of two centers and to be able to work in different places and for a change of scenery.” In his view, coworking has been “good on the margins for recruitment.”
Growth in coworking centers seems to be picking up in many parts of the country. The movement seems to be in rapid evolution along several dimensions. One dimension of this evolution is general versus specialized centers. Some coworking centers accept all comers willing to pay for use of the facilities (CoCo in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, for example) while others are focused on writers (Brooklyn), fashion and design (San Diego) and business startups (Axis 901). It will be interesting to see whether specialization becomes the norm. Users have remarked on the benefits of cross fertilization and serendipity involved in mixing a variety of backgrounds and aims.
A second dimension is whether the cowork center is used for a day or two a week or a full time work space. Cowork centers offer a menu of time options from daily to intermittent use. Is the cowork center acting as a supplement to home work space or as a replacement? This may relate to limited residential space in some cities or the desires and needs of users. It will be interesting to see just how much of users’ work time in spent in cowork spaces rather than home offices or other sites.
A third dimension is solo use versus work team use of coworking spaces. Coworking centers can attract individuals working on projects or work teams. With use of videoconferencing and other remote conferencing tools work teams can be spread around the globe as well. It will be interesting to see how the mix of individuals, work teams and remote work teams evolves in centers over time.
How coworking centers evolve on these three dimensions over the next few years should be interesting to watch.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Social distancing is becoming the new normal, at least for those of us who are heeding the Center for Disease Control’s warnings and guidelines. But if you don’t have reliable, high-speed broadband, it is impossible to engage in what is now the world’s largest telecommunity. As many schools and universities around the world (including those of my kids) are shut down, these institutions are optimistically converting to online and digital learning. However, with our current broadband layout, this movement will certainly leave many Americans behind.
Accenture analysts recently released a report calling for cities to take the lead in creating coordinated, “orchestrated” mobility ecosystems. Limiting shared services to routes that connect people with mass transit would be one way to deploy human-driven services now and to prepare for driverless service in the future. Services and schedules can be linked at the backend, and operators can, for example, automatically send more shared vehicles to a train station when the train has more passengers than usual, or tell the shared vehicles to wait for a train that is running late.
Managing urban congestion and mobility comes down to the matter of managing space. Cities are characterized by defined and restricted residential, commercial, and transportation spaces. Private autos are the most inefficient use of transportation space, and mass transit represents the most efficient use of transportation space. Getting more people out of private cars, and into shared feeder routes to and from mass transit modes is the most promising way to reduce auto traffic. Computer models show that it can be done, and we don’t need autonomous vehicles to realize the benefits of shared mobility.
The role of government, and the planning community, is perhaps to facilitate these kinds of partnerships and make it easier for serendipity to occur. While many cities mandate a portion of the development budget toward art, this will not necessarily result in an ongoing benefit to the arts community as in most cases the budget is used for public art projects versus creating opportunities for cultural programming.
Rather than relying solely on this mandate, planners might want to consider educating developers with examples and case studies about the myriad ways that artists can participate in the development process. Likewise, outreach and education for the arts community about what role they can play in projects may stimulate a dialogue that can yield great results. In this sense, the planning community can be an invaluable translator in helping all parties to discover a richer, more inspiring, common language.