More Businesses Sharing Office Space

By Marcia Heroux Pounds Sun Sentinel.

Offices aren't what they used to be.

Businesses ranging from technopreneurs to lawyers are increasingly renting space in shared buildings known as "flexible" office space -- a place where they might rent a desk by the month or just drop in when they need it.

Demand for such space, especially for women in business is growing in South Florida, a reflection of office rents that have risen 4.2 percent in a year and the emergence of workers no longer tethered to their workspace.

New businesses find that flexible space is a way to get rooted with fewer upfront costs. And many expanding businesses turn to flexible space because they don't want the headache of arranging or paying for furniture, high-speed Internet and basic office equipment.

"Flexibility -- or the ability to scale or downsize -- and to avoid capital investment are some of the key underlining factors" for the growth, said Shay Pope, senior vice president for CBRE and an investor in Pipeline Workspaces, which has opened three flexible work spaces in South Florida.

Flexible workspaces vary widely, with some offering memberships that allows occasional work in the space, to those that offer shared space or private offices with shared office resources. A flexible space is considered a "co-working" one when it offers a community experience, such as networking events and tenants working together.

Bob Swindell, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, said some companies have been moving initially into flexible spaces "to test the market without having to sign a 12- or 36-month lease. It gives flexibility to see if the market is a good fit."

Philippe Houdard, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces in Miami said flexible space has allowed companies including ride-booking company Uber to begin services in South Florida before expanding and moving to more traditional office space.

After opening in Miami in 2012, Pipeline has since expanded to Doral and Coral Gables. Now it is looking to secure space in Fort Lauderdale.

"Fort Lauderdale has been booming, and for Pipeline we're interested in being in the nexus of commerce and culture," Houdard said.

He said more workers want to work in a central place, like downtown Fort Lauderdale or downtown Miami, where they can work or build a business.

"Technology has liberated workers from being tied to a specific location," he said.

Pipeline charges monthly fees of $99 for virtual offices, $199 for flex space, $449 for personalized desks and $849 for dedicated offices.

Last fall, commercial law firm Bilzn Sumberg leased two dedicated desks at Pipeline, at 1101 Brickell Ave., even though it has a traditional office space down the road at 1450 Brickell Ave.

Members of the firm's innovation team, which offers services for startup and emerging companies, rotate in the space. The law firm also gives presentations geared toward new businesses.

The decision "wasn't a spacing issue. Our decision to go into Pipeline was not based on our space here -- it was deliberate. We were looking to go into a shared environment," said Javier Aviñó, partner. So far, Bilzn Sumberg has done some corporate transactions for tenants.

South Florida entrepreneur Adam Boalt moved into Pipeline on Brickell after selling his business, RushMyPassport.com, in 2012. With feedback from other tenants in the co-working space, Boult said he came up with his new business, LiveAnswer.com, which now services 1,000 customers with an on-demand call center.

"I like being there because of the sheer amount of people we meet and connections we make," Boalt said.

WeWork, a co-working company out of New York, also has opened at 350 Lincoln Road in Miami, with monthly fees of $220 for desks and $550 for offices, accordng to its website. It also is opening a space at 429 Lenox Ave. in Miami Beach.

In Fort Lauderdale, co-working space General Provision opened in 2014 at 525 NW 1st Ave. in Fort Lauderdale and is planning to expand, said Tim Hasse, founder. He said General Provision has had a waiting list for private desks for six months.

New to Fort Lauderdale is Colab Workspaces at 599 SW 2nd Ave., which offers shared workspace, conference room use and coffee.

For women in small business, a flexible workspace can be an affordable way to build a business for women.

When Laurie Menekou started Conceptual Communications, she began by working out of her home. But her workstyle had to change when she landed a big account and needed to hire an employee.

"You don't want the team working out of your home. It's awkward," she said. "My husband would come home and I would still be in my pajamas."

So in 2014, she moved to General Provision, located in artsy Fat Village and a few doors from a major client.

General Provision, whose space ranges from $150 a month for shared space to $450 for a dedicated desk, allowed her to have a professional setting for her business without spending for furniture and decor. She now has a staff of seven and the space continues to work for her because it leads to new business.

Currently, Conceptual Communications is working on a project with desk-neighbor DB Collective.

"You have all these other professionals in your space. We all help each other and that's nice," she said.

Also strong are more upscale flexible work spaces in South Florida including Carr Workplaces, Regus and Empire Offices whose tenants often include lawyers and other women in entrepreneurship.

Convenience was the most important factor in finding office space for Jon Pollard, a lawyer who started his own firm in 2012.

He chose Carr Workplaces, at 401 Las Olas Blvd, in downtown Fort Lauderdale because it was in the same building as his former law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and near the courthouse.

Pollard said the upscale office space that he leases is not as inexpensive as some co-working spaces. But he said the office is worth the cost for the prime location and services it provides.

"I want to be able to focus on the law. I don't want to mess around with the Internet, the printers, the scanners or setting up a Federal Express account -- it's all handled," he said.

Office manager Micki Scavone said Carr is a "plug and play" space. Virtual offices start at $99, which provides the address, with office space starting at $1,000 a month. The price includes conference room time, unlimited long distance, high speed Internet, copy machines, a receptionist and maintenance.

Regus, one of the oldest executive office companies in the market, has 36 locations in South Florida, with some offering co-working space and others more traditional office space.

Diana Tigani-Amador, area vice president for Regus, said more people than ever are accessing Regus' drop-in work lounges across the country. Regus has a mix of tenants that include small business women, entrepreneurs, professionals and expanding businesses. Costs range from $38 a day to $99 to $250 for shared space and $300 or more for private space.

Turnover is the prime challenge in flexible offices, but that's the nature of the business, she said. As the companies succeed, they often have to move to more traditional office space.

"We help people grow," she said. "We don't clip their wings."

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