For Midtown entrepreneurs and freelancers, office space doesn’t have to mean jostling for a table at a coffee shop or working from a bedroom at home.
The coworking concept is coming to Cooper-Young as Cowork Memphis moves into the former home of Literacy Mid-South at 902 S. Cooper. Cowork Memphis will offer desk space, meeting rooms, wifi and other office essentials, but in an open-office environment of like-minded creative professionals, more like a West Coast tech firm than a maze of cubicles, its founders say.
“It’s very much for the self-employed, the entrepreneur. It’s anti-corporate,” said Katie Maxwell, Cowork Memphis director of community development, explaining how the casual, collaborative model will work once renovation is complete inside the 10,000-square-foot former furniture warehouse. Interior walls are being torn out to open up the space and to expose brick walls and wooden supports.
“We’re not a box with a door,” she said.
The term coworking was only coined in the late 1990s, but the number of coworking spaces has more than tripled since 2011, with an estimated 2,500 spaces worldwide today and more than 850 of those in the U.S., according to Deskmag, an online industry magazine. A Deskmag survey showed he spaces tend to attract workers in their twenties and thirties, often freelancers in creative industries such as graphic design, web design and marketing. A coworking space opened in Nashville in 2010.
While there are some collaborative work spaces in Memphis — for instance, inside the EmergeMemphis incubator Downtown — Maxwell said the Cooper-Young facility will be unique.
Cowork Memphis will operate using monthly membership packages, and daily rates will be available for short-term use. Rates are still being finalized, but will run between $350 and $550 a month depending on services purchased, Maxwell said.
Maxwell said large communal tables will be available downstairs for daily or monthly use, with private desks available in the second-floor loft space. Meeting and training rooms will feature flat-screen TVs and white boards, and yoga balls and mats will fill another room.
Coffee is provided and members will have 24-hour access to their work space. Security cameras will monitor activity inside and out, Maxwell said. Up to 70 members at one time may fill the space and, while that could make parking tight, Maxwell said she expects many members will bike or walk in from surrounding neighborhoods.
“It’s geared toward people with an active lifestyle,” she said.
Cowork Memphis hopes to bring in seminars and speakers geared toward entrepreneurs and small-business owners, Maxwell said, and may host activities such as sports leagues to foster a sense of community among members.
Maxwell said the Midtown location in between the business corridors of East Memphis and Downtown could also serve as a central meeting place for companies, which will be able to reserve meeting rooms.
The proximity to bars and restaurants within walking distance in Cooper-Young is an added plus.
“There’s so much you can do right here in this area,” said Maxwell, a Rhodes College graduate who said she had personal ties to the neighborhood.
“If it was going to happen, it had to happen in Midtown.”
And if it works in Midtown, the company plans to carry the concept into other cities across the country.
“We’re starting here but we want to take it elsewhere,” she said. “This is the first one but we’re hoping it’s something we can copycat elsewhere.”
Cowork Memphis plans to hold a grand opening in January, though some members could be using the space by late November. Five to 10 people had already expressed interest in joining as of early October, Maxwell said.
Find out more at coworkmemphis.com.