The days where the majority of the self-employed opt for cafes and kitchen tables as their office of choice could soon be behind us. With the rise of the gig economy over the last decade, a whole new industry has emerged to cater to these workers: co-working spaces.
The idea behind co-working spaces is simple: members pay a fee (generally on a month-to-month basis) and can come and go to a company’s office spaces as they wish. There are usually a variety of membership options, which can range anywhere from $200 for a basic plan to upwards of $800 for a private office. Co-working spaces offer a number of benefits. For one, they’re a flexible option to commercial leases since they let members rent out only what they need. Co-working spaces are fully equipped—offering practical amenities like Wi-Fi, office supplies, printers and coffee. They also offer invaluable opportunities to connect with like-minded people—not to mention, they’re a good antidote to the loneliness often associated with independent work.
Vancouver is no exception to this trend. With soaring lease rates and dwindling office vacancy rates, freelancers and entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to co-working spaces. So too are start-ups and even established companies. As a result of this demand, an array of new spaces have been popping up all across the city.
From multinational companies like WeWork to more local independent spaces, here’s a look at some co-working spaces in Vancouver.
WeWork is the biggest player in the co-working space (it’s valued at $20 billion). The company launched in New York in 2010—but it wasn’t until 2017 that it entered the Vancouver market. It’s expansion since has been remarkable, though. By the end of 2018, there will be 5,315 desks across the city—up from 1,740 at the start of the year. That includes spaces at Three Bentall Centre, Two Bentall Centre, Grant Thornton Place and Main Alley tech campus. There’s also plans to turn the upper levels of the Hudson Bay’s flagship store into a 150,000 square foot office—as well as a just announced location at the Marine Gateway mixed-use complex.
The Amsterdam-based co-working company has another big presence in the city. They first opened at 151 West Hastings Street in Gastown in a 35,000 square foot space. They’re continuing their expansion with a space in the old Tom Lee Music Building on Granville Street and another one in the South Flatz tech building in False Creek Flats. They’ll also occupy about a third of the office floor at Westbank’s new office tower at 400 West Georgia Street—which, at 120,393 square feet, will be the second largest in North America.
In an increasingly crowded market, a number of companies have found that targeting niche communities is the best way to be successful. Werklab in East Vancouver has carved out a reputation for health and wellness with perks like an onsite meditation room, yoga studio and aromatherapy bar. MakerLabs provides members with the tools to make almost anything, including 3D printers. A space called Nestworks is set to open next year to support working parents with an on-site child-care facility. There are also a number of spaces catered specifically to creatives, like the Aviary, L’Atelier and Creative Coworkers. Suite Genius, is also one of the favourite co-working spaces among the younger hipper crowd, with offices both in Mount Pleasant and Kitsilano.
The popularity of shared spaces has led to another interesting trend: restaurants that turn into co-working spaces.
One company has set out to make co-working even more affordable by renting out space in local restaurants during the hours they’re closed. For under $50 a month, FreeSpace members get access to a network of locations—like the Ellis in Kitsilano and Mamie Taylor’s in Chinatown.
The spots are open during regular office hours—before dinner service starts. Users can enjoy WiFi along with complimentary coffee and tea. Members currently can’t order from the restaurant’s kitchens—but that’s something they’re aiming to change in the future as they continue to expand.
Transforming Restaurants & Cafe
A lasting trend?
It seems that opinions are split on whether co-working spaces are a lasting trend or fad. With one of the lowest office vacancy rates in North America, it looks like these spaces could be here to stay in Vancouver. In fact, a new CRESA study predicts shared office space could account for as much as 20% of the overall office market in Canada within the next decade. We’ll be watching this trend closely.
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