by Jasper Welch, Durango Space
Vibrant downtowns are a focal point of what makes a strong community in Colorado. Why are downtowns special? Why do we want to bring our friends downtown when they visit? Simply because there is more happening, there is better shopping, more restaurants and now…more options to work downtown.
Beginning a decade ago, the fledgling coworking (shared workspace) model began to show up in major metropolitan areas in the US and Europe, with emerging coworking spaces in New York City, Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA and major European cities. It did not take long for the coworking movement to arrive in Denver and Boulder and spread around the state. Between 2009 and 2011, coworking spaces such as Cohere (Fort Collins, CO), Creative Density (Capitol Hill neighborhood, Denver) and DurangoSpace (downtown Durango, CO) opened.
Coworking spaces are finding success in small towns now too. A recent example is one of Downtown Colorado, Inc.’s 2015 Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence winners, Proximity Space in downtown Montrose. Proximity Space is a joint venture between the City of Montrose and Abrams Company, and has increased business and vitality to the west end of downtown Montrose.
As the shared economy expands (Vacation Rental by Owner, Coworking, Shared Rides, etc.), it is impacting our downtowns in Colorado. In the case of coworking, a new use for office or workspace is filling vacancies and adding vibrancy and activities to downtowns and neighborhoods. Each of Colorado’s shared workspace pioneers intentionally located their coworking communities in a downtown location where walkability, public transportation and access to services (shopping, government offices, banking, restaurants, etc.) is readily available.
So what can districts and local leadership do to support and engage coworking spaces and their users?
- Ask your local SBDC or a local entrepreneur support organization to hold business hours for assisting downtown businesses at your local coworking space.
- Have your downtown organization staff join the local coworking space (most are membership based). They can work some days from the coworking space or hold meetings there. Have a presence in the community by working out of the coffee shops, coworking spaces and “shared space” in the downtown.
- Host MeetUps in downtown shared spaces, including local coffee shops, hotel lobbies, coworking spaces and local meeting spaces. Coworking spaces are a popular meeting place for software and IT professionals.
- Co-locate your local economic development organization next to or “in” the coworking space, along with other downtown support organizations and/or City outreach coordinators. In Durango, the local Economic Development Alliance is co-located with SW Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) and DurangoSpace.
- Work with the local coffee shops, live theaters, and coworking space(s) on a downtown event engaging entrepreneurs, social causes, or downtown programs. Check out Ignite for inspiration.
Would you like to know more about coworking? Contact our DCI staff and they can put you in touch with active downtown coworking spaces in Colorado! Or better yet, find a coworking space in a downtown near you! Here’s a list: http://coworkingpassport.co/
Jasper Welch is a cofounder of Durango Space, a full service coworking facility located in downtown Durango. For 25 years, Jasper has operated his own management-consulting firm, Four Corners Management Systems. As an executive consultant, Mr. Welch has provided management advisory services to businesses, individuals, government agencies and non-profit organizations.