Coworking / Real estate

Has coworking in Brooklyn gone corporate? 11 reactions to the coworking boom

As WeWork extends its reach into Brooklyn, we asked coworking operators and members what they think of the shifting culture and — surprise? — not one person spoke ill of coworking's new wave.

Inside CoLab-Factory in Downtown Brooklyn. (Photo by April Joyner)
Nowadays, anyone looking for a place to work in Brooklyn is spoiled for choice.

In the past few months, WeWork has broken ground on its upcoming Navy Yard location, high-tech manufacturing hub New Lab has opened its doors at the Navy Yard and even a space devoted to blockchain enthusiasts has popped up in Sunset Park.
Several other Brooklyn coworking spaces are set to make their debuts later this year. In May, The Yard announced its new location in Gowanus. The former studio-turned-coworking space Free Candy will relaunch as Electropositive Space in Crown Heights next month, says cofounder Todd Triplett. And Industrious CEO Jamie Hodari tells Technical.ly that the company will open at least one more Brooklyn location later this year to add to its Prospect Heights location.
At the same time, that spells increased competition for the existing players in Brooklyn’s coworking market.
At least one of those spaces has succumbed: In April, Dumbo Startup Lab closed its doors. When he spoke with Technical.ly this spring, founder John Coghlan attributed the closing in part to the changing nature of coworking, plus WeWork’s aggressive entrance into the Brooklyn market. It’s not just a big room with open desks anymore; more spaces are offering amenities to corporate members — namely, private offices.
Has coworking become less friendly to independent workers and operators? Not so, according to the nearly dozen Brooklyn coworking space providers and members we surveyed. Not one person spoke ill of the coworking culture shift and the seemingly crowded marketplace.

In fact, coworking operators think the increased competition — even from WeWork — is good for business:

“I think WeWork is great for coworking. We’re a different flavor: we’re like Ben & Jerry’s-meets-Haagen-Dazs and they’ve become Baskin Robbins.”— Shane Barbanel, founder, CoLab-Factory
“My take is that there’s lots of room in the market. People have incredibly different needs. Overall, it’s a positive: the more growth, the better.” — Miguel McKelvey, cofounder, WeWork
“When we talk to some of our members, they tell us, ‘I wish you had more spaces near me in Brooklyn.’ [WeWork] is teaching the general public about what coworking is, and it’s helping everyone else in the industry.” — Nisha Garigarn, cofounder, Croissant
“I believe if a coworking space is built out right and has access to transportation, then the space will fill up. Coworking has totally changed the way real estate is conducted. I believe that it’s just getting started, since the concept is still very new to many people.” — Jack Srour, CEO, BKLYN Commons

Coworking operators said there is definitely a trend toward spaces featuring private offices and serving larger companies:

“I’d say one misconception is that coworking is for companies that for some reason aren’t ready to sign a traditional lease. That was the dynamic of coworking two, three years ago. Now companies actively want to be based out of coworking spaces. That’s the major shift: they see it as a happier, healthier, more engaging way to work.” — Jamie Hodari, CEO, Industrious
“We wouldn’t have opened if we didn’t have 15 private offices. You need to have space for companies to grow.” — Todd Triplett, cofounder, Electropositive Space
“Most spaces we deal with that have private offices — those have been filling up much faster than the common areas.” — Dave Idell, cofounder, Croissant

Even with that shift, coworking space members say that interaction with other members and access to open space are still the main draws:

“When I first got here, I absolutely did not like it. The lack of windows in the private office got to me. I didn’t realize I could leave. Once I started doing that, going to other places in the space, it was awesome.” — Monica Hunasikatti, community outreach analyst, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine; member of CoLab-Factory
“One thing I like is that most spaces designate the views to the open area. In the corporate world, it’s all about getting the best seat and the best view. Here, we’re all getting the best view.” — Shyda Hoque, real estate agent; member of Croissant
“I did not want a frat space. I wanted a space where my staff would be really happy, where we’d be constantly learning. [Co-Lab Factory] had a level of expertise among its colleagues that was attractive to me.” — Camilla Webster, CEO, New York Natives; member of CoLab-Factory
“Dumbo Startup Lab had a different vibe. [Founder] John Coghlan was fairly involved in the startup community. It was much more than basically a storage unit with windows, which is what you get with more mechanical coworking spaces. The space was contrary to most others. It was a big, open space — no partitions, nothing to break down the space between people.” — Daniel Marques, business and technology advisor; former member of Dumbo Startup Lab

Companies: Industrious / WeWork / Dumbo Startup Lab
Series: Brooklyn

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