Coworking 2.0 Blooms

Markeshia Ricks PhotoRandi McCray and Merieta Bayati were like a lot of entrepreneurs — young in their businesses and in need of a place to work. Instead of renting from someone else, they ended up launching one of a new wave of coworking spaces popping up around town.

The two women, who became friends during their time working at Yale University, had found traditional office space that didn’t fit the flexible, urban vibe they had in mind. They also found coworking space where there just weren’t very many people who were like them: women who also happened to be black.

So they decided to create what they were looking for—about 1,225 feet of open space with an urban loft feel. The Urban Collective, New Haven’s first black-owned coworking space, was born.

“We thought we could do our own projects and then open it to other small businesses like ourselves that don’t want the overhead of their own space but they need space periodically, whether it’s a couple times a week, or a couple times a month, or it was just for an event, ” McCray said

Open since August, The Urban Collective has played host to workshops, a women’s conference, networking events and a quarterly curl bar where people gather to talk about natural hair. Right now, events like the upcoming Passion to Product: Side Hustle 101 workshop are drawing people into the space.

Bayati said The Urban Collective has bookings through March. Eventually she and McCray would like to hire an onsite manager who can be responsible for showing the space to prospective coworkers.

Located at the Marlin Business Center in the East Rock section of the city, The Urban Collective is just one of several collaborative spaces for entrepreneurs blooming throughout the city as New Haven builds its reputation as the state’s home for startups and technology-driven businesses.

The first wave of coworking started a decade ago with the establishment of The Grove in the Ninth Square, which then spun off Baobab Tree Studios.

A second wave of of creative and coworking spaces have sprung up in different corners of the city, including:

The Range at Lotta Studios in Westville.
Hub55 downtown, geared to Brazilian entrepreneurs.
• A new Church Street space called DeskCrashers, a possible launch to a chain created by Jacob and Josef Feldman, one of the teams building new apartments in town.
Make Haven on State Street.
• A planned coworking space in the under-construction “DISTRICT” tech campus in Fair Haven.

The city has gotten in on the action, too. It has coworking space in the Small Business Center on Dixwell Avenue for entrepreneurs who go through the Small Business Academy. It also is looking to provide more incubator space for those in the food-based businesses. (An earlier iteration of that idea was to have been housed in the old Goffe Street Armory.)

A Thousand Flowers Blooming

Markeshia Ricks Photo“The rise of coworking is part of a national trend driven by a couple of things: Corporations that are looking to make their working spaces more efficient and less expensive, but also by needs and interests of millennial workers in particular who need a very different kind of work style in their employment situation,” city Deputy Economic Development Administrator Steve Fontana said.

Fontana said more businesses see an advantage to having employees working in an environment that fosters collaboration rather than individual employees in a closed-door office all day. The Harp administration has been supportive of creating such synergies, he said.

“As you can see from the success of The Grove, this is going to be part of a huge national and international trend that I think will transform corporate office structure and office culture,” Fontana said. “Obviously the market is developing much more quickly than we can keep up with and people are taking it upon themselves and we think ‘Let’s let a million flowers bloom.’

“I think it’s great that we’ve got this kind of energy because it’s that kind of energy that the cities are going to need to survive and thrive in the 21st century. When you think about it we’re going to have communities built around shared interests, shared industry, shared backgrounds. In the case of Hub55 it’s people from Brazil, The Grove is focused on tech ... It’s great to try all these different models, different concepts and see what works. It’s the future.”

You Can Crash Here

David Rosenthal PhotoDevelopers Jacob and Josef Feldman of Mod Equities called their new coworking venture DeskCrashers . They created the space in an 89,625-square-foot, eight-story brick building downtown that they bought two years ago at 129 Church St.

On the first floor, they’ve built out a space that features accommodations for individuals and groups. The building has a casual common area for eating and lounging designed to help coworkers collaborate and build community. There’s a shared gym. If DeskCrashers succeeds on Church Street, Jacob Feldman said, he and his brother might try to scale it up to a chain in Connecticut and beyond.

Mark Lassoff PhotoFeldman said the idea for the venture grew out this and his brother’s own experience of trying to find places to crash and work. He said in the early days of their budding New Haven real estate business, he and his brother were back and forth between New York and New Haven. They had no dedicated office space in New Haven. So they spent a lot of time at the library, Claire’s Corner Copia and Starbucks.

So when they bought 129 Church St. they saw an opportunity to create the kind of workspace they could have benefited from at the beginning of their business.

“A lot of coworking spaces have a mix of sort of closed office options and hot desks,” he said. “DeskCrashers is going to be a hot desk space with options of having a permanent desk in 129 Church St.” He also described an option for people who don’t need a desk but simply want a place where they can go work every day without the noise or hassle of working in a coffee shop. DeskCrashers has memberships that offer lounge-only access for $120 a month, hot desk access at $220 a month, and dedicated desk access for $350 a month. Day passes cost $30. The Feldmans also hope ventures the begin in the coworking space can grow into more permanent digs elsewhere at 129 Church.

Mark Lassoff Photo“The end game is to open up DeskCrashers throughout Connecticut,” Feldman said. “That way if somebody has a membership to DeskCrashers they can use it at multiple locations. It’s the ultimate convenience. And New Haven is a great place for it because there are so many entrepreneurs looking for a place to crash. We were one of them at one point.”

Another communal space is planned for a portion of the the new tech and innovation campus known as DISTRICT.

DISTRICT is being built in the Fair Haven section of the city by developers David Salinas and Eric O’Brien on James Street.

“When done well, coworking space is both a tremendous value to the property itself as well as the businesses it supports,” Salinas said. “Our project is much bigger than, say, someone slapping a coworking space in to fill in some dead space. It’s really a function of a much larger ecosystem that allows us to play across a variety of different stages of the life of a business from inception to established.”

“It allows people to connect and create bigger and better opportunities in the area,” he added. “It’s really about economic development.”

Salinas envisions “collision” points throughout the nine-plus acre campus for people to create community through work or play. The campus also will boast a food hall and beer garden, a kayak and paddleboard launch, walking trails, athletic club, and an amphitheater.

“It’s about the entire campus,” he said. “You’re going to meet people not just in coworking spaces but when you go for a morning kayak or paddleboard sessions, or when you go to the gym. There will be all these opportunities for community, for growth, for economic impact.”

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 13, 2017  10:05am

Are there any updates on DISTRICT? I feel like I haven’t heard anything since the initial planning stages, and driving by it sure doesn’t look like it’s anywhere close to done.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 13, 2017  10:20am

Do not Drink the Kool-Aid Yet.

The Reasons For and Against Joining a Co-Working Space.


Lower Costs
If you enjoy the convenience that state-of-the-art offices offer but don’t have the cash to pay for it, a co-working space may be the solution. You’ll have access to copiers/scanners, fax machines and possibly freelancers willing to perform helpful tasks. Because it is a shared environment, the costs will be far less than a private office. You also won’t be forced to sign long leases and you’ll maintain freedom and flexibility.


Even though the cost to rent a desk at a co-working space is substantially lower than signing a long-term lease, it can still be expensive. Forking over between $300 and $500 a month may not be possible, especially for entrepreneurs bootstrapping their startup or just starting out. Make sure you take into account this additional monthly expense before signing up for a spot.

While working in a co-working space can provide numerous benefits, make sure you carefully consider drawbacks before jumping on board.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on November 13, 2017  11:49am

I am so looking forward to all this Co-working space. Gawd knows I’d like to move my businesses out of my house!

I remember when home offices were all the rage! I find that people need connection and access to creative enegry and spaces that offer all the amenities that home offices can’t. As a super extrovert, I like having people around, the buzzing of noise and spaces to invite others to a meeting without having to “look” for somewhere to meet beyond my dining room table.

I am going to enjoy exploring my options! ....Now about that 2500-3500 loft living space I want!

posted by: Choxie on November 13, 2017  1:56pm

@BetweenTwoRocks I haven’t heard anything and agree that District doesn’t look close to completion, but it definitely looks as though considerable progress has been made. I notice more and more every time I get off exit 5 and also from the back side when I take Shoreline East.

posted by: urbancarpenter on November 13, 2017  2:58pm

@BetweenTwoRocks @Choxie

Yes Choxie, I agree that there is substantial progress happening on the district site. I saw pavement going down last week. I also had the pleasure of touring the site last month and the energy around this collaborative campus is fantastic! I think it will be a tremendous addition to our city and a wonderful example of urban renewal. Personally, I am most excited to see the beir garten!

As for co-working spaces, I think they are a great idea but the big picture is more enticing. Instead of chasing corporations (like Amazon) we can nurture our own local entrepreneurs and build from within!

posted by: LearnToProgram on November 13, 2017  3:11pm

@BetweenTwoRocks District will be (according to David Salinas) opening it’s first offices in January.  I toured last month and was very impressed by the vision and activity.  There will be a staged roll out of additional features and offices after January.

posted by: GroveStreet on November 13, 2017  3:53pm

Congratulations on the new effort. I hope it works as well as you would like and that the clientele is a diverse one.

posted by: robn on November 13, 2017  4:42pm

Minor correction…MakeHaven is a makerspace with access to a huge range of tools (wood, metal, fabric, electronics, etc) and its a non-profit….so income is always driven back into resources for members.

posted by: DSalinas on November 13, 2017  6:54pm

@betweentworocks District has come a long way and we plan on opening our first spaces in January as mentioned in the comments. Much has been done over the last few months. The building is really coming to life!

All of the new windows and most of the doorways have been installed on the exterior of the building. The brickwork has been rehabilitated, 95% of the concrete sidewalks and curbs have been poured, the entire left side of the parking lot has been paved is ready for vehicles.  We recently had a ton of tree’s delivered and installed. We have lots more landscaping to do. The roof and all of the skylights have also been complete for some time now and all of the brand new HVAC units are on the roof, ready for operation. Inside the building is looking great as well. If you or anyone would like a tour or have questions feel free to reach out via our website contact form and someone would happily get back to you.

For those asking about the Restuarant and Bier Garten (Beer Garden) we installed the grease trap two weeks ago! We will be building soon.

Feel free to follow us on instagram where we post updates on our feed and our stories.

For those of you spreading the good word about District, Thank you! We are doing our best and we are humbled by the support.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 14, 2017  10:39am

A balanced and useful post by 3/5ths!

posted by: dew21 on November 14, 2017  11:16am

I pass DISTRICT every morning and they are busy bees over there getting so much done. The transformations from earlier this fall to now have been tremendous. If you haven’t taken the time to drive by, you should! Just because you aren’t hearing specific updates doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. I follow them on Instagram and they are always posting updates, as well as historical New Haven trivia tidbits. Personally, I’m really excited to see the continued progress and to get in there in when they open the doors.
More broadly, it’s great to see our city stepping up the access to alternative work spaces and co-work spaces. There are a lot of innovations and ideas that have kicked off in our city, and I’m excited to see this continue with these new creative spaces.

posted by: spdc on November 15, 2017  2:02pm

We invite tech and biotech startups to come check out our incubator and co-working space at Science Park’s Innovation Hub.  A variety of open tables, cubicles, small offices are available for short-term leases.

Elm City Innovation Collaborative (through EDC) and the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce (which also has concierge space for their members) also have a growing list of incubator and co-working spaces currently available in New Haven.