By Brett Forrest
Co-working spaces are popping up across the city and country, but the recent closure of Spacious on the Upper West Side left a void that residents want filled.
Spacious operated out of the Milling Room and Crave Fishbar for more than two years before suddenly shuttering its doors at the end of 2019. The unexpected closure left at least 100 Upper West Siders without a workspace, according to former Spacious patrons.
Spacious was unique in the co-working world in that it operated out of restaurants during the day before the dinner hours. The model brought in extra revenue for restaurant owners and utilized space that would otherwise be sitting empty.
Last August, co-working behemoth WeWork announced its acquisition of rival Spacious. In documents obtained by West Side Rag, Spacious members received an unexpected Dec. 12 email reading, “As part of WeWork’s renewed focus on its core workspace business, Spacious will close its doors on December 31, 2019. We regret any disruption that this may cause to you or your business, and have arranged other discounted workspace offers.”
WeWork offered Spacious users a discount to utilize any of their several locations, but none were located on the Upper West Side. Many residents were caught off guard by the Spacious shutdown.
“A total surprise,” said Robert Bowman, former Spacious user and owner of opuscule.com. “It was insane.”
Bowman designed and built websites out of the Spacious restaurants for over a year. As a small business owner, he relied on those locations and feared the closure could affect the amount of work he performed for clients. He now operates out of a co-working space on the Upper East Side.
Bowman’s sentiments were widely shared.
“It was a really good situation that we had. And it meant that we had to scramble and figure out some new options,” said Richard Robbins, another former Spacious patron and CEO of Upper West Strategies, a small company that runs an internship program for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “It was right before the holidays so it didn’t give us much time.”
Robbins thinks there’s definitely still a big demand for co-working space in the Upper West Side. “In today’s business, there are many more people working independently. You can work basically with a power cord, a WiFi connection, and a flat surface,” he said. “You can run a company with a laptop and a cell phone.”
After the Spacious closure, Robbins now commutes an extra hour each day to a downtown co-working space.
Another co-working company, KettleSpace, recognized the opening and immediately stepped in. They took over Crave Fishbar as a new daytime co-working partner.
“When Spacious announced they were closing, we felt it was an opportunity to support a bunch of people that were being impacted,” said Nick Iovacchini, co-founder and CEO of KettleSpace. “Whether it was the members who went from having a nice workspace to not in a couple weeks. Or the partners who had this nice ancillary, quality revenue stream.”
Residents say they’re satisfied with Kettle Space’s offerings so far. The price points are lower, but they still see a demand for more co-working options in the neighborhood.
“I live in the Upper West Side. I walk up and down these avenues quite a bit and it’s a little jarring to see how many of these restaurants are closing up. Rents are becoming cost prohibitive,” said Spencer Mindlin, a former Spacious user now working out of Crave Fishbar. “If they’re not getting foot traffic during the day, they can turn themselves into a co-working space.”
The Yard also offers space for co-working on the Upper West Side, with locations on Columbus Avenue and 67th Street and at Columbus Circle. “Both locations are almost at full capacity, but we have a couple of privates offices, and some coworking and dedicated desk spots available,” according to The Yard’s Tara Leavitt. “Anyone whose office of choice is not available can join our waitlist to be notified as they become available.”
The Wing, a chain of coworking spaces designed to be more accommodating to women, is also opening a new space at 380 Columbus Avenue (78th Street) this spring.
For those hoping the Milling Room will jump back into the co-working fold, they’ll have to keep waiting for now.
“Spacious was really wonderful for us, but it also made doing any necessary repairs during the week very difficult,” said Lilly DeForest Campbell, general manager of the Milling Room. “So right now, we’re focusing on getting all of those things done. Getting our space as beautiful as possible.”
Campbell said there’s no timeline as of yet on when the restaurant would consider jumping back into the co-working foray.
KettleSpace and WeWork did not comment on any future partnership with Milling Room or new locations on the Upper West Side.
Amy Klein, author of the upcoming book, “The Trying Game”, worked on the book every day at the Milling Room after dropping off her daughter at a nearby school.
“The Upper West Side is a family-oriented neighborhood. There are a lot of entrepreneur moms and dads without traditional nine-to-five jobs,” Klein said. “They want space that isn’t an office for them to work. Co-working in restaurants is good for the neighborhood.”