Logan Square Arts and Business Center
Like Rudolph and Herbie (see video above), some local businesses and artists are going it alone together in the shared office space of the Logan Square Arts and Business Center at 2823 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
Lourdes Arencibia created the co-office space (photo below) just last year from what had previously been a mortgage office where she once worked. The second floor space is part of her family’s business that includes Crown Liquors and the Crown Tap Room below. Once the mortgage business vacated the space as part of the recent housing reset, Lourdes had been looking for a single tenant while at the same time wondering if she could rent the many small offices individually.
I have been hoping for more office uses “above the store” on Milwaukee Avenue as a way to create daytime foot traffic and a natural market for first floor retail business. I’ve also been looking at co-working as another trend in real estate and use (for other trends previously discussed, see Reform Objects is transformative and Lessons from the Dill Pickle Food Co-op: Greentailing).
This all came together with Lourdes’ thinking when I was talking to her last year about having attended an open house event after the City’s annual Creative Chicago Expo. (Not just for artists, I recommend the Creative Chicago Expo as a resource for creative entrepreneurs, anyone involved with a non-profit and others.)
Susan Fox, an arts consultant who works with Elastic Arts in the neighborhood, had recently signed on at a co-working/co-office space downtown. She invited me to its open house event, and I was eager to see the space and learn how it was operating.
When I told Lourdes about the event, the space, and the concept of co-working, she was immediately on the phone with Susan to learn more. She must have liked what she heard as she ran with the idea and created the Logan Square Arts and Business Center.
Co-working vs. co-office space
I’ve gone back and forth in using the two terms above. Right now, I find the Logan Square Arts and Business Center to be more of a co-office space with artists and businesses renting the many small offices available as they might in a business center that offers individual small suites or offices for let.
Co-office space is a take on the traditional model of “office,” and easy for most to understand.
Co-working is not well-defined but more of an encompassing concept that embraces the values of collaboration, community, openness (and open source, another trend), sustainability and accessibility.
Co-working is the antidote to working at home alone or working alone in a coffee shop or other “third place” where the relationship–or lack thereof–among strangers is too weak to, say, bounce ideas off of one another. It might happen, but it’s not an environment conducive to that type of exchange. Solo entrepreneurs or freelancers whose work requires or would be enhanced by collaboration might find that co-working will add value to their endeavors.
I understand that co-working began in the realm of information technology, but co-working doesn’t have to be tech focused. Synergy, however, is desirable. A graphic artist, web developer and event planner might find opportunities to collaborate. A writer and an educator might collaborate. Or an architect and interior designer. Or an estates attorney and a financial planner. You get the idea. On the other hand, seemingly unrelated endeavors might offer opportunities for collaboration not previously envisioned.
I like this story from a co-working space in Canada forced to contrive a collaboration for the benefit of a cable news channel wanting to see it in action. The made-up and seemingly non-synergistic set-up: “how to use social media to get a job, using mapping technology, with a project management structure to the campaign.” Go.
What ensued was…among the coolest 45 minute conversation(s) I’ve had in years. We quickly forgot about the cameraman…, and we talked and talked — shared ideas and experience. Came up with new connections and commentary. I learned things I never would have expected, and we’re going to come out with at least two evening workshops next month.
The workshops they’re creating are a dimension of the community aspect of co-working. It might take the form of happy hours, workshops, seminars, team-building exercises or show-and-tell.
Community interweaves with openness too. There’s an openness to the flow of ideas, an acknowledgment that ideas are not property and an actual desire to share them.
Collaboration and openness interweave with sustainability. Co-working spaces are often created from one great room (photo left) without walls or even cubicles separating individual offices or creating wasted space. Co-workers sometimes share desks, some spatially, often temporally. Co-working offices are often used for more hours of the day than a traditional office. (A recommended, long but important read is Urban Land magazine’s “The Holistic ‘Office.’ “)
Openness and sustainability interweave with accessibility–both financial and physical–the newest of the recognized dimensions of the co-working model.
So far, the Logan Square Arts and Business Center is not a co-working space. It has or has glimpsed some of the elements, and it may become a co-working space in the future.
For now, each of the businesses and artists have rented individual small offices with walls and doors that close. Those office leases are on a month-to-month basis whereas co-working spaces often allow desk rental by the hour. While tenants have used each others’ services, no true collaboration has yet occurred. No group social or educational events have yet taken place to create bonding opportunities for the community at the Logan Square Arts and Business Center. And the second floor space is not physically accessible.
The Logan Square Arts and Business Center is, though, financially accessible, with the small offices renting for $200 a month, which includes a desk if you’d like, secure Wi-Fi, a shared conference room, kitchen amenities, and housekeeping of common areas. Desks in an open environment are also available for rent (photo above). Regular use of those desks and the collective communal effort of the tenants may create the impetus for a co-working model in the future.
I Am Logan Square’s June exhibition, “From the Studios of: Beth LeFauve, Jane Michalski and Monica Rezman” opening reception Saturday, June 4, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at 2648 N. Milwaukee Ave; show continues through the month of June by appointment.