By Nancy Sarnoff Houston Chronicle
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Options for co-working -- where entrepreneurs and small business owners share office space in an environment meant to encourage collaboration -- are growing throughout Houston. Even in the suburbs.
Co-working spaces have become staples of big-city downtowns. Many are created in converted warehouses or historic buildings near public transportation and other amenities.
But in a city with as much sprawl as Houston, some of the newest co-working spots are cropping up far from the urban core.
A company called The Work Lodge is about to open its second location in an office park in The Woodlands. Its first is in the Vintage Park shopping center in northwest Houston.
"Suburbanization has moved people from the city," said Work Lodge founder Mike Thakur, noting how retail, medical and other sectors followed the population to the outskirts. "Office space is just another natural progression."
In the inner-city, options for co-working -- where entrepreneurs and small business owners share office space in an environment meant to encourage collaboration -- also have grown.
The owners of coffeehouse and bakery Tout Suite has expanded their EaDo operation with a 10,000-square-foot co-working and retail space called The Co-Op HTX.
New York's Serendipity Labs is bringing its take on the concept to downtown's Esperson building through a franchise agreement with the building owner.
Serendipity's mission is to upgrade co-working's laid-back, hipster image by offering space with a more upscale-hotel vibe.
Cameron Management, owner of the Esperson, has an exclusive franchise agreement with Serendipity for the Houston area, where it hopes to build multiple co-working sites.
Co-working operators typically offer an array of extras.
Level Office, another downtown provider, stocks beer, wine and spirits. A cappuccino machine brews cups in 15 seconds.
The work spaces themselves often have a relaxed atmosphere with couches, oversized chairs and rustic wooden tables. A red tunnel slide snakes through the The Work Lodge in Vintage Park.
"You walk into the space and it's fun. You just want to hang out there," said Aaron Howes, corporate managing director for Savills Studley, who advised The Work Lodge on its expansion into The Woodlands.
An open co-working space there is about $250 per month. Tenants receive high-speed fiber-optic internet, a gym membership, coffee, parking, happy hours and business workshops. The price goes up to $600 per month for a private office.
Thakur has experience in the nonprofit sector and once founded a church in Spring. He spent about $1.4 million to build out the 24,000 square feet in Vintage Park. He wouldn't say what percentage of that space is occupied, but he expects it to be full by February.
The Woodlands location should open in March.
Trevor Hightower is about to open a co-working space in an apartment complex in west Houston, an area that has become the population center of Houston, he said.
"Our thesis is that community, community, community is what drives value in real estate as opposed to location, location, location," said Hightower, who spent years in the commercial real estate leasing business and is founder of WorkFlourish.
"We're looking at locations we feel like we can pull the community into and create a dynamic eco-system."
Houston has a vibrant startup culture, Hightower said. More co-working options, he said, gives some of the throngs of energy workers who lost their jobs in recent years a place to hang their professional hats.
"I think Houston has a unique scenario because a lot of folks who were thinking about starting a company down the road, that decision was made quicker for them," he said.
The 11,000-square-foot co-working space is on the first floor of Ascension on the Bayou, south of Memorial along Beltway 8.
Being connected to a multifamily complex allows the co-working tenants to share the apartment amenities like the swimming pool and the fitness center. The same goes for the residents, who can access conference space if needed.
Prices range from $200 a month for an open workspace to $1,800 a month for a private suite.