From Vancouver Sun
One of the largest providers of office space in the world is opening a new co-working building in Gastown that the company hopes will tap into the rising number of freelancers and start-ups in Metro Vancouver.
Regus has leased the Ormidale Block at 151 West Hastings in Gastown and is now amid a full rebuild of the six-storey structure, retaining only the existing façade.
Under the brand Spaces, Regus is set to reopen the building by the summer, transforming it into a co-working space tailored for freelancers and small start-ups, said Wayne Berger, executive vice-president with Regus Canada.
“Spaces started in Amsterdam and it’s been growing around the globe. We’ve been working at a number of locations here in Canada,” Berger said in an interview just before Christmas. “Vancouver will be our first location opening in Canada, and soon to follow that will be Toronto.”
He said Spaces will include a mix of team rooms, open format co-working spaces and individual desks, as well as a business club available to paying members that is open 24 hours a day. “The top of the building will be a large rooftop patio that will be available for access 24-7 for all clients that become members of Spaces,” he said.
Berger said they are aiming to build more of a community feel at Spaces than at other typical business centres. To that end, they have designed a large open community space on the top floor. “Our plan is to hold a large number of networking events, bring in keynote speakers, and bring in people from the community that we can really build in to the Gastown and Vancouver market,” he said.
He said they are now finalizing the design and price list, but expect to accommodate about 450 people at the building by the summer.
He said Vancouver has been one of Regus’ leading office markets over the last 10 years. “It’s been an area that has seen a real significant demand and desire for flexible workspaces, as well as a real drive towards co-working.”
More people are finding themselves in the “gig economy”. There are now nearly 54 million freelancers in the United States, representing 34 per cent of the country’s entire workforce, according to the Freelancer’s Union. That number could rise to 40 per cent in the next three years.
In Canada, there are now nearly two million self-employed workers, according to Statistics Canada. Undoubtedly, a large portion of those are freelancers in Vancouver who need a comfortable and efficient place to work that is not coffee shop or a studio apartment.
“There’s a large community of tech and start-ups here and a big creative design community as well, which really lends toward more of a Spaces concept,” Berger said.
“We’re also seeing a lot of interest from global corporate organizations as well that want to occupy that type of space and want flexibility, and also want to work alongside the start-up community from an innovation perspective,” he said.
The Ormidale Block is owned by Century Group, said Colin Scarlett, an executive vice-president with Colliers International in Vancouver. “They kept the façade of the building and tore everything else down, and are essentially rebuilding a new building in its place.”
He said Vancouver has emerged as a start-up hotspot with small tech companies bursting out of an initial idea and then growing, or sometimes disappearing. Traditional, large-footprint office spaces don’t really fit that business model, he said.
“We’re a town of entrepreneurs, and as a result the requirements for first spaces are sometimes small. There are a lot of people who have had to work from home or other arrangements because they simply can’t lease a space in an office building because the space isn’t small enough for them,” he said.
But single-person or small-team companies still want to feel like part of the action, and being downtown is part of that, Scarlett said.
“The traditional business centre hasn’t met the needs for a lot of entrepreneurs in that they haven’t offered a real community feel. That’s what these co-working spaces are really trying to foster,” he said.
One emerging tech client of Scarlett’s is planning to move from Richmond to downtown in the new year. “They changed the location on all their online job forms from Richmond and Vancouver and they received 200 resumes in a span of a day, when they hadn’t had any,” he said.
Scarlett said most of the demand for flexible co-working space is coming from tech start-ups, but also from single-person firms like accountants and engineers. “We’re seeing anybody who has a small company who doesn’t want to work from home and wants the vibrancy of coming downtown, or to Yaletown or Gastown.”
He said a good co-working space provides a sense of community and fun. “It’s having the ability to foster that entrepreneurial spirit and community feel for sure,” he said. “The bad ones haven’t been able to foster that, where it’s simply been: ‘Here’s a desk amongst a number of other desks, and pay me rent’.”
Spaces has about 15 locations and roughly 15 others on the way, with most of them in Europe and California. Berger said they plan to expand elsewhere in Canada. “I think you will continue to see more Spaces locations across the Lower Mainland, downtown Vancouver and throughout the country,” he said.