My family moved a couple of times when I was a kid, and the months before the move were always filled with weekend visits to open houses. I loved it. There, in an empty house made cavernous regardless of its actual size, one was free to imagine all kinds of possibilities and future potentials. What kind of person would I be in this house?
I remembered this feeling, suddenly, while walking around MakeOffices’ newest (flagship) location in Clarendon with CEO Raymond Rahbar.
Though the space is not completely empty (it officially opened on June 1, but most companies move in on Monday), it is new and underused. The faint smell of paint is still in the air, a harbinger of promise; the branded coffee mugs and water glasses are arranged a little too perfectly.
It is also ginormous.
MakeOffices has taken over the entire second floor at 3100 Clarendon Blvd., outfitted the corners with big, 15-person offices, and the connecting hallways with smaller, one- to four-person options. “To be honest I’m a little lost,” Rahbar said to me at one point as we cruised down one long hallway after another.
Despite the huge amount of new office space Rahbar and his team have to fill, he says launching in the DMV is easier than in Philly or Chicago, where MakeOffices also recently opened spaces. It’s a kind of home court advantage.
In fact, Rahbar says he’s got companies lined up and committed to filling about 40 percent of the space. He told Technical.ly he was “shocked” at how many people were willing to sign contracts sight-unseen — but hey, he’s not entirely upset. It’s a testament to brand recognition.
More brand recognition also means MakeOffices is growing, becoming a coworking force to be reckoned with. I ask Rahbar if there’s anything he misses about the early days.
“I used to know all the members,” he said. “Like, not just the companies — the actual people.” Now, with spaces spread across three cities, he can’t possibly have that kind of personal touch. But beyond this kind of tradeoff things are mostly easier now, he said. It’s easier to make partnerships, easier to fill space, easier to be taken seriously.
Of course, just because Rahbar can’t offer a personal touch doesn’t mean the spaces can do without a human face. This is where community managers come in. Rahbar says finding a good community manager is key — on par with having nice amenities. But, he admits, finding the good ones is a challenge. Each location calls for a different type of person — a community manager who’s great at one office could be terrible at another. “We’re still figuring it out,” he said. Maybe “community” isn’t something that’s easy to scale.
Finally, I ask Rahbar why he chose Clarendon as opposed to another location in the District or other areas of NoVa. He answers immediately: “If anyone ever says anything good about Arlington … they’re talking about Clarendon.”
Indeed 3100 Clarendon is super central to all the area has to offer. It’s literally on top of the metro, and surrounded by bars and restaurants. Rahbar also seems to believe strongly in Clarendon’s superiority to Arlington’s other communities (I’ll spare you his *strong* opinion on Crystal City).
MakeOffices is currently giving tours of the Clarendon space. It will host an official launch party on June 16.
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