(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
In the six months since Spark at Power Plant Live! has been open, the coworking and office space has been growing. But not how it was expected to.
“Our focus was originally tech and creative companies,” said Spark community manager Shervonne Cherry. “We now have companies that are across all different industries — corporate companies that have satellite offices in Baltimore, government contractors and nonprofits.”
The types of companies are unexpected and the space they require is also different than what Cherry and the Spark team initially planned for.
“We originally had private offices only on the third floor but now we’ve expanded to the fifth floor,” Cherry said. “People love the concept of the open floor plan but also the private work space. Having those options are appealing.”
Hunter Jackson, the cofounder of Proscia, started with a few desks at Spark but his company is soon moving to a junior suite for more space and the privacy.
“I think the coworking model is really cool for a young company, but as a company grows, having a private and secure space for all the employees is really important,” he said. “It’s nice having a Proscia exclusive office to talk about the important things. I think that resonates with a lot of companies in the area, since proximity to Hopkins Medicine, the NIH and other medical institutions attracts a lot of biotech startups to Baltimore that may require a certain level of privacy if they’re working with sensitive information.”
Cherry said Spark is happy to accommodate teams as they grow and will create spaces that work for companies wanting to join the community.
“We honestly didn’t know what to expect when we opened,” she said. “The [Emerging Technology Centers] has desks and offices, Betamore has desks, we weren’t sure what was going to be the big seller for the space. But then we saw the demand for offices increase.”
In addition to expanding to the fifth floor, Spark has added offices in the main area by reconfiguring space that was originally pegged for events. Even though Spark is focusing less on traditional coworking, Cherry still sees the need for that kind of space in the city.
“I don’t think there is an over-saturation of coworking in Baltimore,” she said. “There are more investors and startups moving to the greater Baltimore area and I think the need for coworking space is only going to grow in the next year or two.”
Cherry sees the demand for private offices instead of shared desks at Spark as part of a geographical pull.
“I was thinking that most of the companies that would be coming in would be local,” she said of the six-month-old space. “But we have three West Coast companies, Baltimore is their East Coast hub, and … they’re using Spark to do that.”
Cherry said she’s glad to change around design plans if it means accommodating more companies.