New coworking space bets on downtown Schenectady
SCHENECTADY — Urban Co-Works, which whirred to life this fall downtown, is the latest co-working space that believes it can harness the profound disruption in workplace culture that resulted from the pandemic and emerge as visionaries.
The 8,500-square-foot space located across from City Hall opened late last month.
So far, the venue — all industrial chic with exposed brick walls and modern art — has signed agreements for all-but-10 of its 32 office units.
“I think we’re going to fill up by the end of the year,” said Jeff Goronkin, chief operating officer of Urban Co-Works.
The pandemic has been both a blessing and curse, Goronkin said.
Business at the coworking space’s previous incarnation, located at the other end of the Jay Street Marketplace, plummeted by 50 percent last spring.
“It grew rapidly per quarter,” Goronkin said. “Then COVID hit and all the gains we made, COVID erased.”
But rising from the ashes is a professional culture that’s still navigating transition.
Goronkin believes the future of shared coworking spaces is bright as U.S. companies fundamentally rethink workplace culture, one in which employees are increasingly resistant to return to office settings - particularly if their productivity doesn’t suffer.
Companies are also reevaluating long-term lease agreements with commercial landlords, he said, and wondering if the price tag is worth it.
Yet at the same time, workers are seeking respites to get away from their home offices, and a coworking model allows some degree of social and professional interaction, a climate Goronkin believes will spur further collaboration and synergy between clients, who now number roughly 70.
Members include corporate fast food franchises, nonprofits and construction suppliers. One Ann Arbor, Michigan-based business booked office space for a year sight unseen.
The space at 430 Franklin St. also includes technology-outfitted conference rooms overlooking a continually-transforming downtown.
Other amenities, including a podcasting booth, are planned, as well as a rooftop patio for warm weather events.
Multiple options are available at Urban Co-Works, including five- and 10-day desk rentals. Costs range from $35 per day to offices ranging from $625 to $2,200 per month.
The project completely overhauled a long-moribund office building at one of the downtown’s most prominent intersections.
Goronkin, who first set up shop in Schenectady 2016 when he opened a public relations firm, declined to reveal a price tag for the project, only to say the investments were “quite a bit.”
Gone is the bland white cinder block building, fully rehabilitated with brick-and-wood facade work, open windows and a pair of vast ground floor retail spaces, one of which has already attracted a tenant, a Mediterranean restaurant on track to open by year’s end, Goronkin said.
Urban Co-Works, however, doesn’t have the market cornered, and a newly-launched competitor, Capital Co-Works, has opened next door, with other locations dotted throughout the city, including the city’s Stockade neighborhood.
Despite the increasingly competitive environment for co-working hubs across the Capital Region, Goronkin feels bullish.
“We’re the only co-working space like this in Schenectady,” he said, referring to the venue's “Class A” amenities.
Downtown development is continuing to surge, with multiple projects moving forward this fall, including construction of a four-story apartment complex with 3,000 square feet of retail space quickly rising a block away on Clinton Street.
“It’s vibrant and we’re located in a city that has a future,” Goronkin said. “The future that everyone was talking about five to 10 years ago is now here."
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DeMola, Pete. New Coworking Space Bets on Downtown Schenectady, Times Union, 1 Nov. 2021, https://www-timesunion-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.timesunion.com/news/amp/New-co-working-space-bets-on-Schenectady-16579117.php.