N3rd Street / Real estate

The big, old Bourse has a plan for attracting startups

The owners of the historic building are offering one-year leases on office space, trying to lure "graduates" of nearby N3rd Street.

Three years ago, The Bourse lost its biggest tenant.

The U.S. Navy, which took up 70,000 square feet in the historic Old City office building, left for the suburbs, following orders from the federal government.

That meant the Kaiserman Company, which owns The Bourse, suddenly had to fill a lot of space.

Looking to nearby N3rd Street for inspiration, the company has now developed a program geared toward attracting startups: short-term (one-year) leases, no credit check necessary, just a security deposit and you can move in to the office as is. The offices go for about $20 per square foot. There are 15 private offices available right now, according to Kaiserman CEO Homer Robinson.

See available offices

One of the more startupy looking offices for temporary lease at The Bourse. (Photo via

It’s a strategy that plays on a market need and also suggests how Philadelphia’s tech scene is maturing. More and more startups are outgrowing incubators or graduating from accelerators and looking for office space. Flexible lease terms and cool space (open floor plans, glass, room for a foosball table) are at the top of a startup’s wish list, both startups and realtors have said. (Many office leases are longer-term, like for five or ten years.)

Tech companies like SnipSnap and SEER Interactive have said they liked renting from a company that owned a network of properties because it meant that when they inevitably grew out of one space, they could move into a bigger space, owned by the same company, and not have to deal with the hassle of breaking a lease and finding a new place.

As for Kaiserman, the company spoke with local players in the tech scene to validate the hypothesis that there wasn’t much by way of temporary, cool office space for fledgling startups, said Robinson.

Robinson’s conclusion? “Why don’t we rent office space like most people rent apartments?”

The hope, he said, is that startups like it so much that they want to stay.

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