(Photo by Paige Gross)
Editor’s note: If you’re a remote worker or full-time freelancer, what are your options for getting out of the house and getting your stuff done in alternative, inspiring and free or low-cost spaces? How productive could you actually be in a mall, a public library or a bar?
At the end of July, Technical.ly Philly reporter Paige Gross, intern Michaela Althouse and I (editor Julie Zeglen) each took to a nontraditional coworking space in the Philly area in honor of Team Dynamics Month. This is the first part of a three-part series, premiering today is honor of International Coworking Day.
After spending two years as a breaking news and crime reporter in New Jersey, I jumped at the chance to try a day working out of the Cherry Hill Mall.
While running around South Jersey on assignments, I’ve used the mall to stop and grab some food, some Wi-Fi and once, an umbrella for a rainy funeral.
I was interested in how the 1776 Cherry Hill location would compare to Technical.ly’s HQ in 1776 Washington Square, where I have my own desk in an office separate from the rest of the coworking space. Here’s what happened when I crossed the bridge and posted up in the mall for a day.
9:20 a.m. — I got to the mall after about a 20-minute drive from my Philly apartment. It’s the same commute time as if I took the bus to our Curtis Center office, but I got to listen to my true crime podcast WITHOUT HEADPHONES.
9:25 a.m. — Initially, I struggled a bit to find the correct entrance: The coworking space opens at 9 a.m., but the mall doesn’t open until 10. For folks who aren’t regulars, this could be a hiccup. I find the right door eventually and enter into a shiny before-hours mall.
After a quick tour of the space, seeing some conference rooms, offices, kitchen and open work area, I settle down at the long stretch of desk that’s completely open to the mall. I spend a bunch of time window shopping at the Forever 21 across the corridor from me. I decide that I no longer understand much of what “the kids” are wearing these days.
Hi, I’m co-working out of the Cherry Hill Mall today for journalism, AMA pic.twitter.com/eJi3RIeImQ
— Paige Gross (@By_paigegross) July 24, 2019
10:28 a.m. — Adjusting to any new space is weird, and I find myself struggling to focus on work, especially when three mall walkers just strolled by! This is the life I yearn for.
10:32 a.m. — THERE’S A BIRD IN THE MALL YES
One of the 1776 managers, Niara Wright, who oversees the 1776 Founders Market — a retail space connected to the coworking space that features items by local makers — says that the number of people working in this 1776 location fluctuates by the day; I count a dozen to 15 at any given time.
The space just opened in December, and the company is still working to up membership, she says, and that having the retail store and access to the mall attracts a certain kind of member.
“We’re definitely a makers campus,” Wright says.
11 a.m. — I have to relocate to a different part of the office because my seat facing the mall isn’t private enough to make phone calls. Privacy is a struggle with any coworking space, but sounds echoing in from the mall make it worse. 1776 does offer a bunch of private offices and phone booths, so I duck in one to make some calls.
1 p.m. — At lunchtime, I heat up the food I brought with me, but stare with jealousy at a few women who’ve gotten takeout from the Nordstrom cafe.
2 p.m. — I take a stroll around the second floor of the mall, and wonder how more people don’t end up ditching work to peruse sales racks or eat an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.
2:15 p.m. — The rest of my workday progresses as normal, except that I’m having an issue with my laptop’s keyboard. And then I remember — I’m in a huge mall! I check the Apple Store’s availability and book an appointment for 4:45 p.m.. It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.
4:30 p.m. — On my way down to the Apple Store, I see a woman sitting at a cafe in the middle of the mall eating pancakes while working on her laptop. Why didn’t I do this??
- Large space that can fill the needs anyone using a shared office would have
- Founders Market store seems like a great resource for local makers
- Cool event space
- It’s literally in the Cherry Hill Mall, which means there’s access to other stores, is central, and is a well-known location in South Jersey
- Current membership is on the lower side, so if you’re looking to make connections, it could be harder than other coworking spaces in the Philly area
- It’s literally in the Cherry Hill Mall, which mean it can be distracting at times, it might be hard to get clients to take business meetings in a mall, and you might spend too much money on food-court offerings
Overall rating: 4/5
1776 Cherry Hill Mall is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Day passes cost $30, while hot desks start at $199 per month and private offices start at a grand.
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