A panel on real estate was pretty emphatic in saying that coworking would not be a good fit for strip centers and office buildings in a corporate park. The conference tour of Austin’s coworking spaces may require a modification of that statement.
A majority of coworking spaces in Austin and elsewhere are located in downtowns or traditional neighborhood business districts. These can often be described as districts experiencing redevelopment. They naturally appeal to the creative and independent kind of people who gravitate toward coworking spaces. They tend to be walkable or bikeable areas, have access to transit, and are located close to favorite restaurants, eateries, and social hang-outs. Importantly, too, they are close to home. But what if home is in a suburban area with no traditional center? That’s the case or the northern and southern parts of Austin, where you will find spaces in a strip mall or glass office tower surrounded by parking. There are differences, though. Here is a brief overview of Austin’s coworking spaces.
“We are getting in at the base of the bell curve and we will ride this thing to the top. We are starting a revolution and this is really exciting.” I am paraphrasing Liz Elam, organizer of this year’s Global Coworking Unconference in Austin, Texas, attended by about 240 coworking operators and advocates from around the world.
Many people will ask “What is coworking?” The easiest way to describe it is shared workspace in which self-employed workers, freelancers, contractors, consultants, small businesses and others gather to work independently together. Coworking is more than just space, though. Effective coworking centers create a community in which members network, share, and come together to work on projects. It is something distinctly different from business centers, which simply seek to rent space to multiple tenants. You might want to check out his YouTube video…
Coworking is a 21st century way of doing business, enabled by the newfound ability of workers to go mobile, by increased outsourcing by businesses, and by the rapidly rising number of self-employed persons and small businesses. Since coworking spaces began to appear in the mid 2000’s, the number of centers has doubled each year. There are now about 1,320 coworking facilities worldwide. From a look at the conference attendees, coworking is a Gen X and Gen Y game. Perhaps three quarters or more of the attendees were 46 or younger – similar to studies of who occupies coworking space.
Some take-aways from the first day of the conference:
People are looking to pool resources and share in resources they all need to succeed. Coworking is an ideal platform for this kind of collaborative consumption.
Incubators are starting to look carefully at what a coworking model can provide as a means to encourage start-up and growth.
An important aspect of coworking is the freedom to express yourself and be yourself at work. There are a large number of people employed by corporations that are finding coworking spaces.
We no longer have one place of work. Different kinds of work can be conducted in different places – home, the traditional office, a coffee shop, a coworking space, etc. More than a third of the workforce is mobile.
The biggest competition for coworking is the third bedroom. Coworking gets workers out of the isolation of the home.
We have moved from an industrial society where economic development meant infrastructure, to a society in which competitive advantage is found in people.
Part 2 will share observations from a tour of nine coworking spaces in the Austin region.
There has been a lot of speculation recently about whether gas prices may again shoot up, and how far they may go. This is a concern for many of our company and community clients, who want to understand if rising commuting costs will impact their ability to recruit a workforce. We have created a simple model that helps people explore how changes in gas price, commuting distances, fuel economy, and wages interact with each other. Simply enter a few values into the spreadsheet and view the results. This is an Excel file.
Having consulted with several communities in Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina and communities in the Florida Panhandle after the Deep Horizon oil spill, Place Dynamics’ founder, Michael Stumpf, has a great deal of experience in economic recovery planning. Michael was part of a team assembled by FEMA to work with Ward County and Minot, North Dakota after devastating floods impacted the area, which was already reeling from an influx of workers in the nearby oil fields. Michael played a key role in advising the team on topics including economic development, downtown revitalization, commercial corridor development, and historic preservation. He also contributed design services to the team.
Place Dynamics worked with Sun Prairie to prepare a new marketing materials highlighting advantages of the city to prospective businesses, developers, and others. These materials showcase the community’s rapid growth, recent business and real estate development activities, and assets.
Place Dynamics and the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council have teamed up to compile a survey of downtown revitalization conditions and practices within Wisconsin. We received 121 responses from 73 communities across the state, with a good representation of large and small, and rural and urban places. Twenty-two questions explored existing conditions and outlooks, program organization and financing, revitalization priorities, programs and tools, and familiarity with the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council. Although limited to Wisconsin, the findings will have relevance for programs in other states.
St. Francisville lies along the Mississippi at the heart of Louisiana’s plantation country, less than an hour north of Baton Rouge. The city is famous for its historic architecture and the nearby bayous where John James Audubon made many of his famous bird drawings. There is a significant tourism market in the area, where development has also boomed as New Orleans residents sought a safer home in the years following Hurricane Katrina.
Place Dynamics was brought in to conduct a market analysis to determine potential demand for additional hotel rooms in the market. The strong visitor traffic along with a new bridge over the Mississippi River suggested strong unmet demand, and the study recommended a new midscale hotel to capture lost room nights.
Ripon is a remarkable community. Although small and rural, it has an impressive destination downtown district with many specialty shops and restaurants. A recent downtown plan gave many ideas, but did not contain the information that would help the Main Street program determine what was feasible or establish priorities.
Place Dynamics started with a market analysis to determine demand for housing, retail, dining, and office uses. We documented the demand for several types of retail, identifying the number of businesses and square feet that could be occupied in the district. Additional restaurants could also be supported. The visitor market figured significantly in these calculations.
With a declining population base, there was less demand for new housing. The most likely opportunity was to develop 20-24 condominium units, and we recommended the most appropriate of several potential redevelopment areas for this use.
The Fox River is Appleton’s most loved asset. The mighty river once provided the power for numerous mills in “The Flats”, the river banks and low islands that were developed with sawmills, paper mills, and other industrial uses. Over the past couple decades these sites have been transitioning from industrial to residential and commercial uses. The City sought advice on how to plan for the future of the area, including managing the transition period where residential and industrial uses may conflict.
Our plans for the area established a consensus vision for what the Flats may look like in the future, where community sentiment strongly favors reclaiming the water’s edge for recreation, and developing a trail system that will utilize abandoned railroad trestles crossing the river. Preservation is an important element for some buildings and for the locks and canal, which will be opened as a water trail. Most redevelopment sites will be targeted for residential development tied to the nearby downtown on one side of the river, and the downtown on the other bank.
This site is maintained by Place Dynamics, a leader in economic development, market and economic research, and business district development consulting. For more information please visit our company web site at www.placedynamics.com.
(Several of the original posts have been transferred from our previous blog site.)