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A co-working space is basically a shared office space where multiple businesses all work together under the same roof. These spaces are a relatively new concept, born in San Francisco in the early 2000’s, and are steadily gaining in popularity in the US, Europe, and Asia due to their many benefits. Small business owners, entrepreneurs, and other professionals may not work in a traditional office, co-working spaces represent an opportunity to work in a community. These spaces have the benefits of community, affordability, and amenities like conference rooms that they may not have otherwise had access to.
As commercial rents increase, lower-cost co-working spaces may provide an alternative solution for businesses owners that are looking for affordable leases. Also, start-up costs for new businesses can deter entrepreneurs from making the leap in the first place. Luckily, co-working spaces are work-ready, meaning you don’t need to worry about things like buying furniture and getting a high speed internet connection to get your business running. These spaces are also lower-risk and more flexible than traditional spaces with short-term rents, which could attract entrepreneurs that may otherwise be tempted to move to a ungentrified community. In addition to some of the practical benefits of co-working spaces, they also provide a unique opportunity to network in a community of small business owners. These spaces themselves are a response to a changing market, and show an increasing value in collaboration and cooperation. Lastly, co-working spaces can be dedicated to artists or other cultural professionals, helping to preserve the local identity and character of a community.
- Location: It should reflect the needs of the businesses owners being targeted, and ideally would be close to public transportation.
- Working Environment: It should provide a variety of working spaces from private desks, to brainstorming and breakout areas, to conference rooms.
- Sense of Community: One of the main benefits of a co-working space is the opportunity to network and get to know other business owners in the area.
- Amenities: These spaces should provide high speed internet, access to copiers, a break room – the types of things small businesses owners may not have had access to had they not joined the co-working space.
- Flexible Pricing: different levels for different needs (for example, one day or night a week, vs. full time)
Unfortunately, co-working spaces may not be serving the ideal demographics that would need to be targeted to help alleviate the negative effects of gentrification. Most professionals using these spaces are young, educated, white males in creative industries such as new media and web design. This is in contrast to the mom and pop, minority, and lower education businesses owners that would be likely to be displaced by increased commercial leases. Also, co-working spaces are not designed for customer-facing business such as restaurants and retail shops that need their own space to function. Finally, co-working spaces may themselves be at risk of rising land values – while still affordable compared to traditional leases, they may also need to raise their fees due to their own rising costs.
Surge Tacoma’s website says they “empower (s) startups, freelancers, entrepreneurs, students and non-profits by providing state of the art offices, coworking space, resources and networking opportunities, freeing up members time and energy to focus on their goals.”
An artist co-working space created by Spaceworks Tacoma.
A co-working space in Seattle that belongs to the larger network of Impact Hubs all over the world.
A co-working space in Oakland created directly in response to gentrification that is particularly focused on African American art and culture.
ARTICLE | Business News Daily: Shared Office Space
ARTICLE | Wikipedia: Co-Working Spaces
PAPER | Ephemera: Janet Merkel, Co-working in the City
CASE STUDY | What’s Happening Black Oakland: Taking Ownership and Sharing Space
ARTICLE | Shareable: 10 Step Guide to a Successful Co-Working Space
ARTICLE | Entrepreneur: 7 Tips for Creating Your Own Co-Working Space
EXAMPLE | Tacoma: Surge Tacoma
EXAMPLE | Tacoma: 1120 Creative House
EXAMPLE | Seattle: Impact Hub Seattle
EXAMPLE | Oakland: Oakstop