STL Now: The ‘Co’ in Coworking
How STL’s coolest coworking spaces are making it work.
Anyone who’s spent time as a freelancer or independent contractor is no stranger to being shackled to a lonely home office—spending many a day chasing free wireless from coffee shop to the library for some much-needed human interaction. Coworking has become a popular alternative on the West Coast and in Europe, but only within the last year has it gained a real foothold in St. Louis.
The concept is simple: take a large, open office and rent desk space by the day, month or year. These areas are appealing
to freelancers and entrepreneurs who aren’t ready to commit to a permanent space. It’s cheaper and more flexible than taking out an office lease, and it offers a more productive environment than the kitchen table.
Saint Louis Coworking was the first to open a space last summer, and it immediately saw a bubble of success. The 10,000-square-foot area in The Historic Shell Building has 48 dedicated desks and 30 drop-in workstations. It’s home to a rotating cast of independent writers, designers and marketers, though patronage has slowed over the past few months.
Nebula on Cherokee Street opened its doors around the same time with a different style of coworking—instead of one big room, it offers individual offices. Founder Jason Deem has been gradually renovating the building for the past year, filling offices as he builds them. When he encountered a demand for drop-in desk space, he added a larger coworking room with daily and monthly rates. He plans to have 12 new offices available by September and says Nebula residents often share clients, resources and knowledge—a hidden advantage that many coworking supporters are discovering.
Carson Minow of First Punch Productions was the first Nebula tenant, and she’s been continually amazed at the energy and collaboration. “It’s just a really safe, comfortable and creative space,” she says. “We’ll come out at 2am all bleary eyed from the computer screens, and there’s three or four other people out there doing the same thing.”
Chris Meeks, owner of a web/graphic design company, says the challenge for coworking projects is the high turnover, which makes long-term success elusive. For him, Saint Louis Coworking’s wide open space was good for collaboration,
but not for focus. He opted for a private office at Nebula where he could still socialize with other workers on his own terms.
Whichever model wins out in the end, one thing’s for sure: Freelancers have options when it comes to deciding where to rest their MacBooks each day— and it doesn’t have to include a Starbucks.
Nebula Coworking on Cherokee St.
Photo credit: Photos by Alex Schenk