Co-Working Centers Proliferate

By Nancy Dahlberg The Miami Herald.

Step into the retro-chic lounge, choose your seat on furnishings inspired by the '50s and '60s, and open up your laptop. Or if a desk or office is more your style, that's available, too, at Büro Group's new co-working center in northeast Miami's MiMo district.

Travel north about 10 blocks, and MADE at the Citadel has an artsy vibe, with works by local artists all over the place. And as you roam the Little Haiti space, you're likely to peek into a painter's studio or see a set designer in action.

If you live in Fort Lauderdale, you might prefer the more intimate General Provision, with unique work spaces, some tucked away in a loft upstairs, a funky wooden bar in front, phone booths for Skyping and a generous conference room in the back.

And in Miami Beach, the ocean itself will be celebrated at the new WeWork, the largest co-working space yet in the region, which is set to open this week on Lincoln Road. Need a break? Cabanas will be available to members so they can change and head straight to the beach.

WeWork, with 42 locations open or ready to open around the world, is opening a 40,000-square-foot, four-floor facility to accommodate up to 750 members -- the first of at least five WeWorks planned for the Miami area. Said co-founder Miguel McKelvey: "We want to be wherever entrepreneurs are."

Indeed, entrepreneurs are all over South Florida these days -- in new collaborative co-working spaces such as these and dozens of other spaces already in operation. The Brickell-downtown Miami area alone is home to 20 including KeyWorking and Quest, according to a listing by the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

The newest players also include 360Spaces, Building, Mindwarehouse and Delray Tech Space. Opening in the next few months: Pipeline Coral Gables, Büro Coconut Grove, StartHub in downtown Miami and a handful of smaller specialized spaces. Some existing places are expanding, including Axis Space in Fort Lauderdale and the Center for Social Change in Miami.

Caffeinating the wave is a confluence of trends both national and local. Around the country, urban centers are undergoing a renaissance, becoming magnets for mobile millennials. By choice and by circumstance, the economy increasingly involves independent workers; a new study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the sector of workers who don't have traditional full-time jobs increased to 40.4 percent of the workforce in 2010, up from 35.3 percent in 2006, and the researchers believe the share of independent workers is even larger today.

Locally, the growth of downtown during the last two real estate cycles has helped make the urban core a nexus of cool for young professionals and entrepreneurs, doubling its population since 2000. An explosion of entrepreneurship programs -- many funded by the Knight Foundation, which has put its weight behind the entrepreneurship and tech movements in its Miami program -- has also fueled the trend. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area was the nation's No. 2 locale for new startup activity in 2014, according to a Kauffman Foundation study.

Startups and freelancers have been seeking affordable, convenient and collaborative work spaces where they can network, learn from one another, and attend workshops and events. Costs vary, but most run about $200 to $300 a month for full-time use of the co-working space and its amenities; a dedicated desk or glass-walled office costs extra. Co-working spaces also offer WiFi, access to conference rooms, generous hours of operation to accommodate night owls and weekend warriors, and of course, plenty of java.

Such spaces aren't new. The first wave opened between 2011 and 2013 and included The LAB Miami in Wynwood, Büro Miami in Midtown, Pipeline Brickell and MEC261 downtown, among others. Today they are considered key elements of the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem.

But over the past year, growth has accelerated. While spaces are continuing to open in the Brickell-to-Wynwood corridor -- for example, Building.co recently opened its three-floor space particularly geared to tech companies near Mary Brickell Village -- they are also moving outside the urban core. There are also more specialized spaces popping up and more corporate involvement in the centers.

Yet the biggest new trend it this: For the first time here, co-workers can choose from networks of locations.

Pipeline, whose original space in Brickell has 250 members, is opening a second location above the centrally located Northwestern Kellogg School of Management in Coral Gables by the end of the summer and is actively scouting for other South Florida and national locations, said co-founder Philippe Houdard. Earlier this year the company opened in Philadelphia across from City Hall.

"We continue to learn from our experiences, we tweak the model, but it's the same spirit. We try to localize to the individual neighborhood ... but you'll still feel like you are at a Pipeline," said Houdard. Pipeline Brickell members include tech company LiveAnswer; F.C. Miami City Champions soccer league; Daniela Kronfle, a jewelry line; Perelada Comercial, a Spanish wine company; and Avenue Planet, which is building an immersive virtual 3D shopping experience.

Büro Group's original location, now 18,000 square feet, is in Midtown and has expanded twice. Last year, Büro opened a location in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood; this month it opened in MiMo, in the building adorned with the historic Coppertone sign. The company plans to open in Coconut Grove by the fall in a building shared with Panther Coffee, and the founder said he is also scouting additional locations. Airbnb, Gilt City, Postmates, Gucci Group, Barry's Bootcamp, Flywheel, Pubbelly Group and GoTV Digital are some of the companies that have employees or teams at Büro's centers.

The locations are strategic, said Michael Feinstein, Büro CEO and founder; members have a convenient place to open up their laptop, whereever they are in the Miami area. At the 11,000-square-foot MiMo location, with additional room available to expand, Feinstein is also offering bigger offices, some that can hold teams of 12 to 14. "We don't want people to grow out of Büro."

But the biggest new networked player is New York-based WeWork, with 42 locations opened or announced in 15 cities in four countries, allowing its 25,000 members access to the spaces when they travel.

The new location on the ocean end of Lincoln Road has four floors and 40,000 square feet -- small for WeWork but the biggest yet in South Florida -- that will accommodate 750 members. WeWork also has an app, with an internal news feed where members can seek advice or referrals, ask for feedback on a demo and find out about local events and group discounts.

Two weeks before opening day, the space was very much an active construction zone, but by Wednesday, two of the floors will be open, each with community meeting space, open desks, glassed-in offices of various sizes, a kitchen, and small and large conference rooms -- all standard amenities with other WeWork locations. What it has that others don't: views of bustling Lincoln Road and, from the top floor, the ocean. The highest two floors are slated to open Aug. 1, a spokeswoman said.

McKelvey, chief creative officer of WeWork, said from New York that WeWork's global network, and particularly its members from New York, where the company has 12 locations, are excited about the Miami Beach facility.

"We chose a building that our members would love. It was an opportunistic move. It's the smallest size we would typically do," said McKelvey, adding that some of its locations are 200,000- to 250,000 square feet. Noting that WeWork has been watching Miami's entrepreneurial scene progress, he added: "There's a creative arts scene down there and we are going to see that more and more in entrepreneurship. We are excited to help with that and be part of that."

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