Coworking space aims to create community, collaboration in Myrtle Beach

jfrost@thesunnews.comNovember 3, 2012 

— For Joe Clarke, working from home gets old, which is why the Myrtle Beach self-employer spends three to four days a week at a new community office.

Clarke – who owns a webposting business – is a member of Cowork MYR, a workspace in Myrtle Beach that gives freelancers and stay-at-home workers an opportunity to work around other creative minds, said Andre Pope, one of Cowork MYR’s co-founders.

Cowork MYR, which opened last month on 21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, brings a new kind of office environment to the Grand Strand that has been becoming more popular in bigger cities across the country.

“It’s nice to be able to get out and be motivated to work in a new environment,” Clarke said recently while at Cowork MYR. “Working out of my house or at a coffee shop, it gets old. Here, I get that community aspect and I am getting out of my house and being more productive.”

At Cowork MYR, workers can buy a day pass or one for nights and weekends or pay for a full membership, which includes 24-hour access to the space. A full-time membership costs $250 a month.

Coworking is a growing trend from the home and traditional offices around the world.

As of August, there were nearly 1,800 coworking spaces worldwide, which is a 93 percent jump over August 2011, according to Deskmag, an online magazine about coworking and its communities and spaces. New York, London and Berlin are the global coworking hotspots, with New York having 63 spaces, according to Deskmag.

“The living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms of the world house most workers before they decide to move to a coworking space,” Carsten Foertsch of Deskmag said in an article on a global coworking survey. “Compared to a traditional office, the majority of coworkers report an increase in self-confidence - almost 90 percent. This is probably thanks to the flexibility that coworking spaces provide, and the fact that they are surrounded by a supportive community, with whom they voluntarily enter into a relationship with.”

Coworking spaces worldwide have roughly doubled in size each year since 2006, according to Deskmag. About 36 percent of all coworking space operators who took part in The 2nd Global Coworking Survey planned to open at least one new location this year, while another 27 percent said they would add more desks to their present location, according to Deskmag’s website.

Cowork MYR opened a month ago in a building that used to be a BB&T bank off Oak Street at 21st Avenue North. The workspace – which can accommodate 30 to 40 people - offers a common area, conference room, private call room, lounge room, printer/copier, Internet access and a meeting room or private office. There’s also a recycled bicycle for members to run errands or grab lunch.

“People are here because they don’t want to work in a standard corporate office environment,” said Paul Reynolds, a Cowork MYR co-founder. “It’s a place for people to pursue ideas and grow their business if they want. There’s an independent culture here, a place for like-minded people. And there’s collaboration there.”

The closest other cowork is in Greenville, Reynolds said. Cowork is a bit different from the more common shared office spaces, he said.

Shared offices can have desks for individuals to work separately, but a cowork space aims to create an environment where workers feed off each other and potentially come up with new business ideas, Reynolds said.

When it comes to the traditional type of office space along the Grand Strand, area Realtors said the demand hasn’t been booming as many businesses don’t need a lot of space anymore.

Demand for office space has been “anemic,” said John Draughn, director of commercial sales for Coldwell Banker Commercial Chicora Real Estate. “It’s better than it was, but not great,” Draughn said. He said businesses just don’t need a lot of office space anymore because more workers can do their jobs with a laptop from anywhere.

Realtor Richard Singleton also said the demand is flat. “However, lease rates are stabilized, which is an indication they probably bottomed out,” said Singleton, broker associate at Coldwell Banker Chicora Commercial Real Estate.

Scott McNew, a senior adviser at Tradd Commercial, said the demand has picked up a little bit over last year.

“There’s more activity in housing and tourism industry, which translates into a little more activity in office space,” McNew said. “There’s still existing supply to accommodate that need.”

Reynolds foresees coworking expanding along the Grand Strand in the next five years.

“We will have built up both an entrepreneurial culture and an innovator culture and outgrow our space,” Reynolds said about Cowork MYR. The local workspace has 12 paying members and 70 people who have come by or expressed interest in the workspace on a membership list . Reynolds said anywhere from two to 10 people are there on any given day.

Clarke, who’s been going to Cowork MYR since it opened, said it has been everything he expected so far.

“It’s pretty affordable,” said Clarke, who pays $8 a day at Cowork MYR. “It’s cheaper than getting your own office space.”

Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.

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