A Juicy Couture and an upscale nail salon wouldn’t seem to be likely building mates for a soon-to-be coworking space, but a trio in Rittenhouse say they are in the process of building Benjamin’s Desk into just that sort of space.
Michael and Jennifer Maher and their co-founder Mike Goldstein have plans to offer 32 open desks, three private offices and six permanent desks to both short-term and longer-term members across a variety of industries looking for office space in Center City starting this April.
Unlike other Philly-based coworking spaces — like, most prominently, Indy Hall — the Mahers and Goldstein hope Benjamin’s Desk will differentiate itself by offering a more corporate environment that includes a range of business services, including tactical business consulting, mail services and private phone lines.
“We look at ourselves as a hybrid,” said Michael, an active duty Naval Officer, adding that he expects to house a mix of tech startups and independent service providers who want the flexibility and collaboration of coworking but a more traditional workplace setting.
Cape May natives both, Michael, 29, and his wife Jennifer, an attorney at Pepper Hamilton in Center City, came here looking to be entrepreneurs. Among a host of other ventures he boasts, Michael says the two own a screen printing business called Express Custom Apparel, as well as another company that plans to produce corn-hole tournaments down the shore and equity in an Atlantic City web design firm.
The idea for Benjamin’s Desk came about in January 2010 when Michael was combing through an article on coworking. Also a business school student at Villanova’s Center City campus, Michael began researching the market for a professional, multi-industry coworking space in Center City. As he tells it, when his projections seemed to check out, he and his wife, who live in Rittenhouse, started looking for real estate and settled on 1701 Walnut Street about a year ago. Negotiations and plans have been on the go since.
Right now, however, the space on the 7th floor of the Allman Building at 17th and Walnut streets is empty and dated, facing a $150,000 remodeling, Maher said. Below, watch a short walk through of the space that is scheduled for a large-scale renovation.
“Center City is growing, from a resident’s standpoint and a jobs standpoint,” Michael said. “More people are living here. More people are working here.”
Benjamin’s Desk seeks to be “Philadelphia’s premier shared office and coworking space for professionals,” Michael is quick to say, but with so many projects in the works it will be interesting to see whether the Mahers and Goldstein can foster a professional community that offers value in a market with a growing array of colocation options.