By Melissa Repko The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As the traditional 9 to 5 workday starts to die off and people work where and when they want, companies are trying to design workplaces where people can work, socialize and workout all under one roof.
Nick Clark started his co-working company in Dallas in 2012 by opening a hip office space with desks for rent in Deep Ellum.
But when he sought to expand recently, he looked to another kind of space, a local gym with black rubber floors, racks of hand weights and a loyal base of exercise enthusiasts.
Dallas-based Common Desk bought Social Mechanics, a boutique gym with a single location on Lower Greenville, about two weeks ago. Additionally, it bought an independent coffee shop in East Dallas in November and renamed it Fiction Coffee.
As the number of co-working spaces grows, companies like Common Desk and New York-based co-working giant WeWork are branching out into other businesses. The companies see ventures like retail or fitness as another way to make money, stand out from the competition and create a distinctive culture that hooks customers for the long-term.
Clark said Common Desk will add new coffee shops and fitness classes to buildings where its co-working spaces serve as an anchor. It is partnering with the owners of commercial real estate buildings to add the amenities, which can be used to attract and retain tenants.
He declined to disclose the acquisition prices.
Common Desk's four locations are part of an increasingly crowded field of co-working spaces in North Texas that rent desks and private offices and offer perks like free snacks or local beer on tap.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, there is about 1.3 million square feet of co-working space, according to commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield. That includes large national players like international office firm Regus' Spaces and smaller companies, including some that cater to niches like artists, makers and early-stage startups.
"Millennials are expecting a lot more out of the workplace as the notion of 9 to 5 is starting to die off and people work where they want, when they want," Clark said.
He said that means designing workplaces where people can socialize on a rooftop, grab a cocktail when they're still checking emails on their laptop and squeeze in a workout at lunch.
At Common Desk, members can join book clubs and Netflix clubs, drink free beer, coffee and kombucha and rent an Airstream trailer for off-site meetings at places like White Rock Lake.
Cribb Altman, senior director for Cushman and Wakefield in Dallas, said the explosion of co-working has been driven by the fast pace of companies' growth and contraction, the rising number of people working independently and remotely, and the expectation that workplaces should provide more than just a cubicle. Co-working gives companies an appealing option: modern office spaces without a pricey, long-term lease.
And he said workers, especially twenty- and thirty-somethings, prefer an office that blends together work, live and play.
"It's a race to provide amenities for customers," he said. "The evolution of the co-working scene has transformed more into a lifestyle amenity center. For these operators to gain market share, it's about providing as many amenities as possible."
No more is co-working thought of as just for entrepreneurs, small businesses or tech startups, Altman said.
The fastest growing segment is companies with more than 1,000 employees, according to the real estate firm's data. Despite the significant square footage, he said he thinks the region's co-working spaces are nowhere near the saturation point.
Common Desk has grown to about 1,000 members with a roughly even split between freelancers and startups, small businesses and large companies, Clark said.
The company plans to open two more downtown Dallas locations and is looking at locations in Addison and near Southern Methodist University. Costs range from $100 per month for general membership to $700 per month for a dedicated desk, and it multiplies from there based on the number of desks in an office suite.
"People keep scratching their heads on 'How in the world in there more demand for co-working space?'" Clark said. "But I think the big issue is that commercial real estate, especially as it pertains to office space, is going through a seismic change right now where flexibility is king."
WeWork, which has four locations in Dallas-Fort Worth and plans two more, has also expanded beyond co-working.
It launched two other businesses: WeLive, a co-living concept that rents furnished apartments with shared kitchens and common areas in New York and Washington D.C., and WeMRKT, a convenience store that sells snacks and other products created by members. The brick-and-mortar retail concept, which is being piloted in New York City, will roll out to all WeWork locations, said Nathan Lenahan, general manager for Texas.
Lenahan said the new businesses extend the company's mission of building community. "Everyone wants to have a life, not just a living, and that's what's paramount," he said. "In an age where everything is going online, we want to value those very human interactions."
Other brands are jumping into the co-working game, too. This spring, high-end health club chain Life Time began opening Life Time Work with locations in a suburb of Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Gainesville, Va.
The company plans to open more than 40 locations across the country over the next five years, including in Texas. And in New York and San Francisco, a company called Spacious has converted upscale restaurants into co-working spaces by day.
Cristen Trousdale, general manager of Social Mechanics, said she was confused when she heard a co-working company wanted to buy her gym. But she said she grew to understand how teaming up with Common Desk would help both companies develop a larger following.
Plus, she said, having convenient locations in office buildings will give her clients one less reason to skip a workout.