By the end of the year, Benjamin’s Desk will become the first coworking space to have two locations in Philadelphia.
The coworking space, which opened in Rittenhouse Square in 2012, will launch a new, nearly 10,000-square-foot spot in Washington Square West’s Curtis Center (601 Walnut St.) in the coming months. No exact date was given. We first reported the news in June.
Anchor tenants include Jon Gosier’s new Cross Valley Capital venture firm, military veterans accelerator Bunker Labs PHL (run by Benjamin’s Desk founder Michael Maher), FastFWD company and Temple University spinout Legal Science Partners and web dev firm Engine Room Technology, which currently works out of the original Benjamin’s Desk.
Benjamin’s Desk is part of a reimagining of the Curtis Center, a 12-floor building that has historically hosted more traditional businesses, like law firms and medical practices — though now-shuttered online reputation company Brand.com notably set up shop there. The building sold for $125 million in the summer of 2014 and its new owners, Keystone Property Group and Mack-Cali Realty Corp., envisioned the Curtis Center becoming the anchor for a “second Rittenhouse Square,” with plans for luxury apartments, a restaurant and more retail stores.
“The coworking environment in many ways reflects our overall revitalization strategy for the building, which aims to foster an vibrant, communal setting for visitors and workers,” said Rich Gottlieb, senior vice president of Keystone Property Group, in a statement.
It’s also a nod to how commercial real estate players across the city are rushing to adapt to (and cash in on) the growth of the tech scene.
The Curtis Center’s tech moves call to mind how The Bourse, another historic office building that previously played host to traditional businesses, announced that it wanted startups to move in. But there’s also the $25 million project to turn Market East into a tech corridor, the massive WeWork coworking space opening in the Piazza at Northern Liberties next year and the recently announced development of the University City Science Center’s uCity Square (though that one feels a little different, since the Science Center has had such a history of doing this kind of development).
Meanwhile, some of the earlier coworking spaces are struggling. Most recently, Kensington’s Impact Hub announced it would shutter in its current location and find a new space. Callowhill’s Venturef0rth was saved by an anonymous donor. Old City’s Indy Hall faced rising rents on N3rd Street, a corridor that the coworking space itself helped invigorate.
Benjamin’s Desk’s expansion bucks that trend and raises the question, can a homegrown brand compete with the likes of more corporate coworking players like WeWork and Industrious?