By Sydia Bell and Collin Kelley
If being trapped in a cubicle with humming fluorescent lighting is your idea of hell, you are not alone. Many entrepreneurs and young workers are flocking to coffee shops for the free wi-fi and to meet clients, but there are only so many soy chai lattes you can drink in a day. Enter the “co-working” space.
Shared office spaces are not new to Atlanta, but the proliferation has picked up since the economic crisis and more people decided to open their own small businesses.
One such co-working space to recently open is Desk (deskatl.com) at 1095 Zonolite Road, not far from Virginia Highland and the Emory University campus. Co-founder Beth Ventura said Desk is perfect for freelancers, students, technology professionals and small business owners.
“All you need to bring is your laptop and ideas,” Ventura said.
Designed for flexibility, Desk offers individual spaces available on a daily, weekly or short-term basis and monthly options for cubicles and offices that can hold up to three professionals. Each space is equipped with an arrangement of data and/or electrical jacks and everyone has access to printer, copier and scanner. Complimentary mail service allows for delivery to Desk instead of home addresses.
Ventura said in addition to workspace, Desk is equipped with kitchen utensils and appliances for mid-day meal prep, an outdoor break area with access to park and access to a private conference room. She said those who want to give Desk a try should take advantage of the one-week trial offer available through the end of August.
Located in the Telephone Factory Lofts at 828 Ralph McGill Boulevard near the Carter Library, Illuminarium (illuminarium.us) doesn’t bill itself as a co-working space in the traditional since, according to facilities manager Jill Jung. Local entrepreneurs Oliver Perrin, Brandon Sutton and Richard Leslie, who are also partners at Culture, a local brand intelligence firm, created Illuminarium.
“We focus on team collaboration,” she said. “We are an option for teams that want to have an off-site meeting, strategy session, dinner in an inspiring location.”
Jung said many companies host off-site meetings and events to avoid the daily distractions of the office and to get creative juices flowing. “This often happens at a windowless hotel conference space, which is the opposite of inspiring,” she said.
Illuminarium is designed for a group or company to take over the entire space for a day. The high ceilings, big windows, comfortable chairs, floor-to-ceiling dry erase walls, and inviting salon area are definitely a break from the normal office environment. Jung said the space is perfect for groups of 12 to 14, but can accommodate up to 24.
In Buckhead, Atlanta Tech Village (atlantatechvillage.com) is creating new “co-working” office spaces aimed at technology and related companies, and targeting tech start-ups. A five-story, 1980s-vintage marble-and-glass office building at 3423 Piedmont Road is now undergoing a $5 million renovation to create the new workspace.
Some companies already are at work in the partially renovated building. Once construction is complete, the building will offer open offices where young tech entrepreneurs can work side by side, conference rooms, expandable offices for growing companies, and places where workers can get away to play ping-pong or tabletop shuffleboard, community manager Karen Houghton said during a recent tour for potential clients. “It will be a very different building,” said Houghton said.
Jim Wade plans to move his new insurance business specializing in digital sales from more traditional Buckhead office space into Atlanta Tech Village after the first of the year. He hopes the environment will help him attract younger workers. “It’s as much as anything else, a recruiting tool and a place for them to work rather than a stodgy old office building,” he said.
Joe Earle contributed to this article.