By Mary Corbin and Tracey Taylor
New co-working space The Office opened May 1 in downtown Berkeley, joining several other similar shared workspaces that have opened in recent years in a city where a diversity of office space is in short supply.
The Office is located on the ground floor of The Addison Street Project, at 1935 Addison St. (at Milvia), part of a new mixed-use project built by developer Avi Nevo.
The new space — which totals 6,000 square feet — is managed by husband-and-wife team Kate and Casey McEachern. The couple say their goal is for The Office to become a “clean and well-lighted” non-traditional workplace that inspires and supports its members and builds community, from freelancers to fully formed startups.
The Office is just down the street from another recently opened co-working space, at 2001 Addison St.. Major industry player Regus opened 10,000 square feet of private and co-working offices there in December. According to its website, prices range from $8.80 per person per day for a co-working space, to $61.40 per person per day for a private office with window.
Both openings follow in the footsteps of Berkeley’s biggest co-working space, WeWork, which opened at 2120 University (at Shattuck) in 2015, and offers 39,000 square feet of co-working and private office space over seven stories; and NextSpace, which opened its 9,000-square-foot space on Center Street in 2013.
NextSpace has seven locations in California. Regus and WeWork are both global companies — Regus is publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange and has more than 8,000 employees, and WeWork is valued at over $17 billion. The Office, in contrast, is rooted in more of a “small, indy and local” philosophy. Kate and Casey are the creative brains and stamina behind Cupkates, one of the Bay Are’s first new-wave, gourmet mobile food trucks, which also got its start on Addison Street in 2009. They also ran brick-and-mortar business Stateside Bakery in the Telegraph Gardens building also developed by Nevo. After selling their business in 2015, Nevo asked them to help create the new downtown co-working space.
The story goes that after returning from a vacation after selling their business, Casey ran into Nevo while he was walking along Addison. Nevo told him he was developing a new space and wanted to add a co-working business and wondered if the couple would like to take it on.
“Avi wanted us to do everything from end to end, from putting in a floor to filling the place with people. So, when he asked if I was interested I said ‘Yeah. Sure. Absolutely. By the way, what’s co-working?’” said Casey recently on a tour of the new space.
Both Kate and Casey said this experience was vastly different from anything they had tackled before and had them rigorously sorting out the nuts and bolts, literally, for the next 18 months.
Though it was a far cry from baking cupcakes, Kate had had exposure to the architectural world when she was an editor for Dwell magazine. She welcomed the opportunity to return to those roots, including doing work on most of the interior finishes of The Office.
“We wanted to create an authentically local space for entrepreneurs”, Kate said, “one that was physically inviting and independently owned — not a chain like some of the other co-working spaces in the area — in order to promote economic growth for the community we live in.”
To that end, they hired as many local creative agencies as possible. Berkeley’s Studio KDA designed and developed the interior space and Local Language did some of the interior fabrications, such as the LED backlit logo sign in the lobby and ceiling features.
Kate’s personal touch is expressed in colorful wallpapers, furniture, painted exposed pipes and interior detailing throughout the industrial space.
“I actually designed the bathroom fixtures, the vanity and sink. That’s as local as it gets – designed in my living room!” she said. She added that the design features were based on a philosophy of creating a welcoming physical space that people would want to leave home for and feel inspired to do their best work.
Casey said during his research into co-working spaces, he was initially intimidated, but his small-business hustle and approach was what would sustain them through the grind of bringing the project to fruition.
Amenities at The Office include 24/7 access (except for café seating which is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday), free coffee, fast wifi and access to printers and copiers, gender-neutral bathrooms, bike storage, two conference rooms and two private phone booths. Private offices vary in size, with the biggest accommodating up to eight people. The Office currently offers a four-tiered structure of rental options, ranging from café seating at $300 a month to private offices that start at $550 a month. It is currently offering 20% discount through the summer.
Kate and Casey said that from the beginning, being local, and creating a level of interaction and detail that is local, was paramount to them.
“We know every business in the neighborhood and what they contribute is important to us,” said Casey.
“I think it’s important for members to know that their fees are being recycled back into their own community here in Berkeley, not some billion-dollar corporation somewhere else,” said Kate, who, like Casey, graduated from Cal.
Kate mentioned their strong ties to UC Berkeley and their plans to collaborate with them to create special memberships and “a stronger, expanded networking environment.”
The Office can accommodate 125 people in total, but Kate said they don’t anticipate having more than 75 people in the space at any one time. A few weeks after opening, it was at 20% occupancy with members including traffic engineers, journalists, attorneys, coders, a documentary filmmaker, an incubator, designers and startups. On a recent weekday, one of the latter, GoFind, creator of a new type of shopping app, had most of its team working in two different communal areas in the space.
Office space is in short supply in Berkeley. The Downtown Area Plan allows for an office building with a maximum height of 120 feet, but so far no developers have shown interest. Data compiled for the first quarter of 2017 by real-estate services company Newmark Cornish & Carey shows Berkeley has a total of 3 million square feet of office space, only 4.42% of which is available. That compares to 4.3 million square feet in Emeryville with a 15% availability, and 14 million square feet in Oakland with 7.3% availability. The average asking rent per square foot for Berkeley office space is $2.82, according to the research.
New research by Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development shows that there are 10 co-working spaces currently operating in the city. They are: Impact Hub, The Office, WeWork, Regus, Sandbox Suites, NextSpace, Mothership HackerMoms, Cotton Core, Berkeley BioLabs and The Sage Centers. Liz Redman Cleveland, who recently joined the department as chief strategist for sustainable growth, and who compiled the data, estimates co-working space is accommodating 300-350 businesses and nonprofits in the city, with about a third being nonprofits.
“We are pleased to see new co-working spaces opening not only in our downtown, but in South and West Berkeley as well,” Cleveland said. “These spaces provide at least a partial solution to one of the challenges we hear most frequently from Berkeley-based entrepreneurs: ‘limited availability of commercial office space’.”