Coworking spaces: a smarter office?

The resurgence of the coworking space in the United States is upon us, according to a new report. Meet the spaces and creatives collaborating by the hour across the country.

In an economic crunch, the best place to work might be next to someone you've never met.

The Wall Street Journal this morning details the resurgence of the coworking space in the United States, allowing freelancers and other non-corporate employees the ability to join a like-minded community without giving up their freedom. (But maybe their desk.)

The concept has long been popular in collaborative Silicon Valley, but Emily Glazer reports that similar spaces are popping up beyond San Francisco, in places such as New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New Orleans, San Diego, Denver and Vancouver.

First, a definition: a coworking space has no definitive arrangement but is generally an open space filled with desks that allows workers to rent a desk for a short period of time, from a few hours to a week at a time.

Aside from the collaborative overtures, coworking spaces also allow freelancers to negotiate for a proper office environment -- furniture, Internet, building lease, coffee machine -- without laying out all the capital.

Glazer writes:

Office spaces amenable to co-sharing are proving to be more popular and lucrative than traditional Dilbert-like offices both for established companies looking to change their atmospheres and companies hosting the spaces for start-ups. The total vacancy for a "creative" space with open floor plans ideal for co-working was 2.54% in San Francisco in July, and the asking rent ranged from $32 to $53 per square foot per year. Meanwhile, more "historical" spaces with closed-door offices that lack open space had a total vacancy of 10.55%, while the asking rent ranged from $21 to $36 per square foot per year, according to commercial listing broker The CAC Group.

Several shared offices are mentioned in the piece, including Sunnyvale's Plug and Play Tech Center, New York City's General Assembly, online startup Loosecubes, New Orleans' Launchpad and others.

There are plenty more across the country -- Philadelphia's Independents Hall, Chicago's COOP, Washington, D.C.'s Affinity Lab, Austin's Conjunctured and Los Angeles' Indie Desk are also in the mix.

Unsurprisingly, the businesses are popular with creative types -- writers, filmmakers, software developers and other creators fill the couches, bar tables and communal areas of these exceedingly un-Office Space-like spaces. In a way, it's like taking mixed-use zoning and applying it to the office.

No longer must startups form in the basement or garage of someone's parents' house; now entire sectors can literally materialize overnight as creatives work well into the night on their own time.

The future of work? For some, a resounding yes.

Photo: Indy Hall, Philadelphia. (Roz Duffy/Flickr)

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