Opening a Coworking Space During a Pandemic?

Urban Properties discusses the challenges and opportunities of doing just that with this summer’s launch of Urban HUB.

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Urban HUB’s August OPENING was different than what its creator, boutique real estate consulting, development, brokerage and property management firm Urban Properties, envisioned for the launch of the new coworking space in the Lower Garden District.

For starters, pandemic-related restrictions on gatherings ruled out much of the professional development, networking, health and wellness, and social programming that was in the works for the coming weeks and months. Additionally, with limits on guest capacity, only so many members were allowed in the building at any given time. With parties and programming on hold, the company installed freestanding, touch-free hand sanitizing stations, contracted a professional sanitation team to visit once a week for cleaning, and were soon off and running within the city’s guidelines.

The 3,517-square-foot, circa-1820 building was previously home to a public relations firm and didn’t require much in the way of change. A few modifications were made to the 1,480-square-foot courtyard as well.

“We stuck with the current floorplan,” said Genevieve Douglass, director of marketing and operations for Urban Properties and Urban HUB. “We did some cosmetic work, painted head-to-toe, [and looked at] the strategic placement of furniture.”

Urban Properties — which used to be based at The Rink on Prytania Street — managed the build-out and worked with Modern Market to furnish the space and outfit it with artwork. Once the space was finished, the company relocated, itself becoming a member of Urban HUB.

“We really wanted to open up the space and invite others to share it with us,” said Douglass. “And this area, the Lower Garden District, didn’t really have many small office options.”

The space includes conference rooms of varying sizes that are wired with Apple TV, a copy and storage room, kitchen and lounge with a large bar, and another lounge with a large screen TV for client presentations. A few other amenities include accessibility for people with mobility constraints and an on-site corporate apartment is available at a discount to members for use by their clients. Membership levels vary from day passes to monthly rentals. Douglass said the company works with members as much as possible, especially now.

“It’s really important to be flexible and to be understanding of people’s life circumstances and how people are reacting to the [pandemic] situation,” she said. “Being sensitive to people’s needs and keeping that in perspective, trying to keep things light.”

Douglass said to promote a positive atmosphere, the space plays music and brings in food from clients, such as The Daily Beet and Good Bird. When it’s possible, they will provide (socially distanced) yoga classes in the courtyard, as well as hosting professional, fitness, wellness and social events and various workshops.

The current member lineup includes a civil engineering firm, as well as freelance writers and graphic designers. Douglass said creative professionals have been drawn to the space.

“I think anybody in this neighborhood who works from home or is a freelancer is a good fit for us,” she said. “Interior designer, graphic designer, architect — anyone in the design realm. [Being in a coworking space] helps with business development and networking.”

In the coming year, Douglass said the company will work to help members feel safe, get back to 100% capacity and revisit projects put on hold due to COVID-19.
“We are staying positive about the market, working on deals and pretending life is normal,” said Douglass. “We want our clients to feel supported and achieve their dreams.”

 

At a Glance

Business Name
Urban HUB
Location
1582 Magazine St.
Date of opening current location
August 2020
Square footage
3,517 square feet, plus 1,480-square-foot courtyard
Number of Employees
3
Person in Charge
Eugene Schmitt, director
Architect/firm
Urban Properties (managed the build-out)
Interior design
Modern Market
Furnishings and Art
Modern Market