Company Culture

Coworking spaces die in threes: Transfer Station is latest

The Transfer Station in Manayunk will close this month, its founders announced, following last fall's closure of Bristol-based Business Casual Coworking and the October shuttering of 3rd Ward in Kensington. What do they have in common? They were all big.

Updated: It's not yet clear if that $1.3 million in pledged funding for the Transfer Station was ever confirmed and distributed.

Another prominent coworking space has come and gone in the Philadelphia region in the last six months.

The Transfer Station, the Manayunk mixed-use space that received $1.3 million in pledged support on the Fundrise crowdfunding platform across 552 contributors, announced on Facebook it will close this month. (No clear sign yet if that money ever actually came to pass.)

Brothers Adam and Simon Rogers were working with developer Shift Capital to renovate another Manayunk space so took up temporary residence on Main Street.

It appears they won’t get to it. They announced the closure in a letter on Facebook.

That’s just the most recent.

Not long after 3rd Ward closed its Brooklyn and Kensington locations in October 2013, suburban Bristol-based coworking space Business Casual Coworking also shuttered, as confirmed by a former member and the space’s Facebook page.

The 6,000 square foot space that housed a pharmacy’s inventory warehouse and hoped for more still is the location for Broken Goblet Brewery, said cofounder Mike LaCouture. Business Casual founder Jon Graham hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

In that letter on Facebook, the Transfer Station founders wrote: “…We are moving onto the next step with a much stronger and more well-rounded understanding of ourselves, the community, and The Transfer Station as a whole. … We’re very excited for what comes next, and we look forward to sharing the details of our evolution with you soon.”

What’s the common theme between the shuttering of these three much-hyped coworking spaces, Transfer Station, Business Casual and 3rd Ward? From afar, the sheer size of them all, both in terms of square footage and goals.

Modern entrepreneurship teaches the practice of failing fast and that may be what happened here. But there’s something much smaller scale about the intricacies of building a sustainable organization around desk-sized real estate transactions when knowledge workers are mobile and there is a glut of cheap office space. Coworking isn’t building a social media app.

If one were to paraphrase the philosophy of Alex Hillman, the cofounder of coworking space grand-daddy Indy Hall in Old City, bigger is rarely better.

Last night, Hillman sent a dozen tweets out about would-be coworking space owners misunderstanding the business they’re in, trying to just put butts in seats, rather than a community — language that, for the record, the Transfer Station founders used often too.

Among those tweets, Hillman wrote: “I’ll bet you $100 today that a coworking space near you that you *think* is doing well closes inside 12-18 months.”


Companies: The Transfer Station / Business Casual Coworking / Indy Hall

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