In recent years, coworking conversations have been typically driven by communities of independent workers sharing a single office, and, in Philadelphia, they have most often taken place in more affordable neighborhoods outside of Center City.
Indeed, the city’s technology community has seen an outgrowth of colocation opportunities this year, but the next phase may involve creating pockets of innovation density in new places and in new ways. Where the so-called N3rd Street community in Old City looks a lot like the creative spirits that are fueling its origins and University City remains grounded in storied institutions, another nascent collection of technologists is coming together where skyscrapers roam.
In the last year, three prominent, young web companies have taken up headquarters in the unassuming Philadelphia Building at 1315 Walnut Street, and an innovation lab is due to join them next month.
Watch a video on this budding community in the Philadelphia Building.
Craig Grossman, the director of operations for the Philadelphia Building, explained that despite its decades-old location, the spaces inside are not all of the traditional walled office variety but rather for clients who want to be in a space where imagination can happen.
“You can almost stereotype the office building in Center City Philadelphia,” Grossman said. “They’re cookie cutter spaces. If you’re spending ten, 12, 14 hours in an office space, that office space should feel cool and warm and inviting and homey and you don’t get that in 99.9 percent of Center City office buildings.”
Business analytics firm RJMetrics, web design firm Eight Eleven and Drupal specialty shop Zivtech, which is the newest addition, are three tech tenants that are currently occupying “cool” offices at the Philadelphia Building with more to come in the near future. The Creative lab from Cultureworks, the arts financing coworking space that is due to open in October, is planned to move into the building’s eighth floor in July.
Check out some photos of the office spaces on our Facebook page here.
“We’re only competitors in the sense that we’re all super motivated people that want to be the most successful people out there,” said Bob Moore, the co-founder of RJMetrics. “And when you’re in the same place and have this proximity to these other people, it pushes how you view success.”
So how do you build on what is there? Have parties, says Alex Urevick-Acklesberg, a Zivtech co-founder, only half joking. Technology businesses attract other technology businesses. Urevick-Acklesberg says he was first exposed to the Philadelphia Building when visiting RJ Metrics.
“Similarly, we’ll try to bring other companies, and my guess is some of them will like it and want to come,” he said.
Those three firms are a good start. RJMetrics and Zivtech are each at 22 employees, not counting paid interns and other support staff, and Eight Eleven has 13.
Density of talent, particularly in a similar industry, has long been a foundation for attracting and retaining talent — like the pitch to encourage University City to be a hub of investment regionally.
“We all want each of us to be successful, and that’s key… to the collaborative environment of bumping into each other,” said Eight Eleven co-founder Aaron Mclean. “This helps us keep a pulse on what is possible.”
The is a report done in partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods program, the capstone class for the Temple’s Department of Journalism.