As an increasing number of Americans move into the freelance and entrepreneur economies, we’ve seen coworking spaces opening up in cities around the country. Looking at NYC as an example, it’s pretty much nearly impossible for you to not find at least one coworking space within walking distance and even less likely for you to not find one that suits your specific needs. Indeed, even in recent months, NYC-based WeWork, which has eleven locations in the city alone, has recognized the rise in demand and opened up spaces in Washington, DC, Boston, and Seattle. Despite this seeming inundation of coworking spaces, Doejo’s Phil Tadros believes that there’s still a gap to be filled, especially within the Chicago scene.
Doejo is a Chicago-based digital agency that works with brands on web/mobile design and development. Tadros, who founded the company six years ago, announced last month that he plans to open SPACE, a new coworking space in downtown Chicago. “Through our work at Doejo, we’ve helped establish companies and help them continue to grow,” says Tadros. Part of the reason for creating SPACE is to offer more room for the Doejo’s clients and partners, as well as to bring together a new community of Chicago startups.
But even more so, Tadros has frustrations with the trends he’s seeing in coworking spaces. For one, he doesn’t like the way some are taking advantage of the coworking economy and merely using it as a real estate play, rather than actually focusing on building a supportive and collaborative coworking community:
“Doejo really started out my history with coffee shops and cultivating that kind of community – [the SPACE's] culture will really be influenced by that.”
While there are certainly other spaces in the city, such as the 50,000 square-foot 1871 (which will add an additional 25,000 square feet this summer), Tadros believes that rapid growth and a large membership put strains on fulfilling the needs of individuals as well as on cultivating a culture.
“SPACE will be small enough to take care of people, but also big enough for people and companies to grow,” says Tadros. “There are other [coworking spaces] coming from other cities – like WeWork – but they’re not as connected to [Chicago] with regard to talent, capital, or connections in the city.”
Even with the upcoming entry of WeWork into Chicago, Tadros believes that SPACE has the advantage. Because of the connections that Tadros and the Doejo have established within the Chicago startup ecosystem, there’s a lot of incentive for companies to seek placement in SPACE. “Renting an awesome space in a great location is one thing, but Doejo’s mentorship and connections are what we believe will set us apart.”
Despite all the competition in this space, Tadros welcomes it, as he sees it as a great opportunity for the Chicago startup ecosystem:
“I love the Chicago maker movement and tech startup world. What’s happening here, in general, is that people are making their own stuff more and more. We’re not looking to be the end-all solution for everyone – because we can’t. So, we welcome more competition and more people getting involved.”
The 10,000 square-foot SPACE, which is set to open next month in River North (444 N. Wabash Avenue) will have room for about 87 people, and offer rents between $500 and $700 a month for private and semi-private space. Some of the amenities it plans to offer include twice-a-week morning yoga classes, rest pods, and a hammock hall.