Located within a Class A building in the RIO Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Launch Workplaces is a new concept in hybrid workspace centers for individuals, startups, and small companies. Overlooking Lake Washington, the space of over 16000-square-feet offers a mix of collaborative desks, conference and meeting rooms, and individual or group offices to be rented out for any amount of time necessary. The space also features a café, break areas, and lounges for down time and stress relief during the day.
When The Brick Companies, a 124-year-old business that owns several hundred square feet of commercial real estate around the Washington, D.C. metro area, decided to set out on the venture of creating Launch Workplaces, it was with the goal creating a new source of income within their business model.
“We’ve seen trends in the last two years that indicate the traditional commercial real estate office offerings aren’t going to be as strong as they have been historically,” says Mike Kriel, Vice President of Operational Efficiency at The Brick Companies. “Offices, businesses, and people are trying to do more with less.”
As a result the days of office spaces with thousands of square feet being rented out for ten years with automatic escalation rates are slowly disappearing, and in their place Kriel is seeing smaller, more nimble offers for businesses. More people are willing to get out of their Fortune 500 companies, where there fate is decided by higher-ups above them, and take a chance on a small startup, focusing on what they want out of life rather than just a paycheck. Launch Workplaces seeks to be an answer to this trend, a way for these small 1-10 employee companies to afford a space to work with some flexibility in case of setbacks or surges.
“Basically, [Launch Workplaces wanted] to provide dynamic co-working type space where startup companies can come together and rent different types of spaces out, not necessarily just traditional office space, to work and be around other people that are generating new ideas and business ventures,” says Barbara Magistro, principal at GTM Architects, the firm that Launch Workplaces hired to build their space. “It’s kind of the new, modern version of the old incubator type paradigm.”
Within the space GTM created a number of environments to meet a variety of needs for companies relatively large and small. Private office memberships start as low as 750 dollars per month for a single table and chair. Exterior offices for up to six employees are available for varying prices depending on size and location. 42 co-working desks are available in an open-office shared space for an extra fee. At no extra charge, office access includes use of lounge areas and a fully stocked café, as well as a number of conference rooms and training rooms that are shared throughout the space. GTM has fitted these spaces with new age furniture, from chairs to benches to desks to tables, as well as display screens in certain areas for presentations.
“One of the design trends we’ve been experiencing is that space is starting to be designed by works style, not status,” says Magistro. “By approaching space that way and by looking at the types of spaces that you might want to work in, such as collaboration spaces, touchdown spaces, assembly spaces, ‘hot desks’ for impromptu meetings, and so on, we find that you have to have a combination of these quiet spaces with these ‘energy zones.’ Energy zones are where you should bump into people to converse and collaborate, while quiet zones are for when you’ve got to sit down and dive into your particular task without being bothered. That’s how we approached this particular design.”
In addition to complementary mail and address services, 24/7 access to the building, and internet via Ethernet and Wi-Fi, desk membership will give customers a dedicated receptionist to greet employees and clients. For smaller companies that don’t need a dedicated space, a ‘virtual office’ can be rented for various prices depending on amenities, which may include a mailing address, phone reception service, voicemail to e-mail, call forwarding, scanning, and more. Perhaps the most attractive feature is that these spaces can be rented out for a day at a time if necessary, meaning no commitment for companies that don’t know if they’ll make rent month-to-month.
“We really see the future of office space changing, and we want to get our toe in the water sooner rather than later,” says Kriel. If Launch Workplaces works out the way they believe it will, expect more spaces like this to follow, through the Brick Companies and more commercial real estate owners throughout the country.
Video: Barbara Magistro talks Launch Workplaces at grand opening in fall of 2014.