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.”
More WeWorks are on the way. Fueled by a $355 million venture capital infusion last year and reportedly raising a new round of financing with an eye-popping $10 billion valuation, WeWork is actively scouting for additional locations globally and in the Miami area.
“We see building out three spaces in the more immediate future, and five to seven long term,” McKelvey said about the Miami area, without giving more detail.
Independent co-working centers are moving where the entrepreneurs are, too. In the past year, artists and creatives have also been beginning to move out — or have been priced out — of Wynwood and are landing in Little River. Not surprisingly, co-working spaces are following.
Thomas Conway of Conway Commercial Real Estate, one of the owners of the MADE (Makers, Artists, Designers and Engineers) venture, along with Nick Hamann and Danny Buraglia of Urban Atlantic Group, wanted to be an early mover in what has been a shift to the Little Haiti/Little River area. He and his partners purchased a 26,000-square-foot building that once housed BellSouth and more recently three churches, and renovated the building with more open spaces. Just inside the door are gallery exhibits by local artists.
The space, with about 40 members and four or five resident dogs so far, has 27 private offices/studios, open work spaces, a maker space and a theater for events; still to come is a garden area. Sarah MK Moody, a photographer and gallery owner of Maggie Knox Gallery, and Deon Rubi, a jewelry designer, were integral in transforming the space. Even the bathroom stalls are hand-painted.
MADE is just one part of a strategy. Conway and his partners have big plans for another nearby building they own. “I see spaces like ours, like The LAB and others as catalysts for growing Miami,” Conway said. “If we can help create a couple of young companies that go on to bigger and better things and that trickles down, that’s mission accomplished for me.”
The generously sized offices filled up fast with fashion and art businesses, music companies, technology startups, marketing and event companies, even a yoga studio. The space also offers one of South Florida’s most affordable packages; co-working in the communal areas starts at $100 a month.
Arthur Render, founder of SoleNews26, which sells limited edition sneakers to celebrity athletes and entertainers, is now calling MADE home, attracted by space to show his inventory and meet with his clients. Other members include fashion designer McLaine Oberhellmann of McLaine O. Swimwear, artists Patricia Baro and Santiago Castillo of Mixed Media Collective and Danielle Malinski of RAW Yoga.
David Sinopoli moved his whole team — 10 people — into MADE earlier this month. His company, III Points, has one of the larger offices adorned with art and also whiteboards for brainstorming.
III Points provides the infrastructure for indie music businesses. Already, the company is selling tickets to its signature event, III Points Festival, a mix of music, art and tech on Oct. 11-13.
Sinopoli was lured to MADE by the building’s management, design and tenant mix that was moving in. “They understood our business, they made it affordable, they made it a home we couldn’t turn down,” Sinopoli said. “I was convinced it was the perfect spot for our company.”
He also likes that there is a pool table, DJ equipment and performance space, along with comfortable common work areas and a kitchen. And with so many creatives under one roof, there is always something going on. “Tarot card reading goes down there on certain days,” he said.
Over at Büro MiMo, entrepreneurs have been moving in before its grand opening set for early July.
For Miami tech firm Blackdove, Büro’s appeal includes its various convenient locations and the MiMo atmosphere that meshes well with its brand, said its co-founders Marc Billings and Tito Gaudenzi. Blackdove’s art-tech platform bringing gallery caliber art to any smart screen will be launched later this summer.
“We chose Büro MiMo because of its great emerging location that truly captures the nature of what we are building. The real estate and entrepreneurial landscape of the neighborhood is changing rapidly and we are excited to be part of it,” Gaudenzi said.
For Jonathan Strauss, partner of Skateboard Supercross, the decision to move to MiMo was easy. He has been a Büro member for four years, and “if my company grows to 100 employees, I would still be at Büro,” he said.
“It’s such a great vibe and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve relied on other members for help. A lot of ideas are generated by just talking in the social areas,” Strauss said.
Skateboard Supercross, today a team of four, is designing and building tracks and creating educational academies. The first track, in Brooklyn, is due to open this summer. The company has partnered with a well-known European bike park designer, and Skateboard Supercross’ designs will have a “ski resort-style atmosphere for wheels,” said Strauss.
He’s developing an app for his company’s academy and is testing a platform built by fellow Büro member Steven Quayle’s company, 3Floorsup. Over the years, Strauss says, Büro members have been a source of advice on design work, marketing and branding, printing services and accounting. “There are limitless connections you can make.”
Meanwhile, some spaces are specializing. Pipeline has plans to develop a “co-warehousing” space in Little River that would include not only co-working but shared warehouse and logistical support — services Pipeline Brickell members and other small businesses have requested.
Further south, on Coral Way, Lauren Harper runs the Center for Social Change, a co-working community for social purpose organizations and the people who serve them. Just a year old, the space has 50 members now from 20 organizations, and has held a number of workshops and classes. The center soon will add another floor so it can offer more offices, open co-working areas and event space, she said.
Even traditional businesses with their own physical presence in Miami are seeing the value that co-working spaces can provide and bridging the gap between Miami’s established business community and its growing entrepreneurial community.
“We will continue to expand programs and events to support the community. We are studying how we can best engage corporations to help them innovate and problem solve by connecting them with startups,” said Tamara Wendt, executive director of The LAB Miami, with 138 members, including ESPN Latin America, Wyncode, Wix, Bitstop, America Votes, Local Measure and Klangbox.
Law firm Akerman has been a LAB member for more than a year but upped its game with the appointment of Andrew Pompa as the new director for Akerman IN, a core group of Akerman lawyers who will work and collaborate in the space to deliver skills and services in more approachable ways.
Similarly, Bilzin Sumberg now has a dedicated office in Pipeline Brickell, where members of its Innovation Group rotate their time, exchanging ideas, connecting with entrepreneurs, building relationships and identifying synergies for doing business.
Events are still a key focus of many of these spaces, particularly at The LAB, which hosts 1,900 people a month at workshops and classes — from its Brainfood entrepreneur speaker series to coding classes to design thinking workshops, said Wendt.
In the past two weeks, entrepreneurs and creatives could have squeezed into a standing-room only crowd at General Provision watching pitch night for the first graduates of its resident coding school, Wyncode. At the LAB Miami, they might have caught Adam Smith of Medina Capital sharing his story at Startup Grind, participated in a civic hacking project at the weekly Code for Miami meetups or even taken a swing dance lesson. They could have networked over breakfast at 360Spaces, learned about Enstitute’s apprenticeship program at the new Mindwarehouse in downtown Miami, popped into the Center for Social Change’s community open house, or tried their hand at live-figure drawing at MADE.