October 21, 2019
Category: DT Advantage Fall 2019
A snapshot of some spaces and amenities needed Downtown to grow the area’s tech hub and business opportunities.
Coffee shops and other third spaces
On any given weekday morning or afternoon, you’ll find businesspeople gathered at Lock Stock Coffee. It’s one of the best places in the core to grab a latte, but the 105 Street coffee shop has also become a place for Downtown’s tech community to connect, socialize and do business. Lock Stock is not the office and it’s not home. It straddles the line between those two realms in a “third space.” Coined by American socialist Ray Oldenburg, third spaces are public spaces where people informally gather to discuss ideas or simply enjoy each other’s company. Lock Stock’s long tables and free WiFi make it the perfect surrogate office for techies looking for a less formal place to work. Generally, third spaces are places where beverages are served, such as cafes, bars, lounges and microbreweries. Other Downtown third spaces include Credo 104, Remedy Café, Rocky Mountain Icehouse and Yellowhead Brewery, but the need for more of these social hubs in the core will be great as our Downtown tech hub continues to grow.
Diverse housing options
Rather than working in tech hubs located in the suburbs and industrial areas with poor connections to public transportation, tech talent cite that they prefer to work in central, walkable neighbourhoods with lots of amenities and services. As more tech companies open their doors Downtown, developers and city planners have an opportunity to offer a larger variety of housing options and improve the urban experience. This new Downtown cohort ranges from young graduates looking for small rental units to older tech talent shopping for three-bedroom condos suitable for families. Of course once the techies move in, they’ll be looking for parks, playgrounds, alternative transportation options, schools, grocery stores and retail – services and amenities that help to make downtown even more attractive and livable.
Offices of the future
When the founders of Jobber went looking for larger office space Downtown, their shopping list was void of the usual trappings of a corporate office. High on the list was room to grow, a problem that many tech companies face. Not only was the Downtown-based home services management software company looking for more space, but they also wanted the capacity to take over more square footage if needed. Like many tech companies, Jobber’s wish list also ditched cubicle-heavy spaces in favour of open floor plans with communal desks where staff can work shoulder-to-shoulder on team projects. Open plans encourage more collaboration, innovation between employees and create greater efficiencies. Work life balance for its 130 employees was also important – access to a fitness centre, nearby coffee shops and ample bike storage. Not only will employees benefit from a productive and healthier workplace, but the office dog will be happier in the new space. Jobber is scheduled to move into their new Downtown space 2020.
Coworking and hybrid spaces
To date, there are about eight co-working spaces Downtown. Users of these spaces rent a desk or private office month-to-month, and have access to amenities, such as internet, printers, meeting rooms and kitchen area. Work Nicer Coworking opened on 103 street last year and offers additional perks such as group health and dental benefits, car-sharing discounts and access to fitness classes at various local studios, but where Work Nicer really shines is fostering human-to-human connection amongst its entrepreneur members. The life of an entrepreneur, freelancer and remote worker can be an isolating and lonely experience for some. Other co-working companies Downtown include Unit B, Homestead and Sparrow Spaces. These coworking spaces attract not only tech startups but entrepreneurs from all types of industries.
What happens when a company is too big for a co-working space but too small to commit to a standard 10-year office lease? It’s a problem many tech companies face when their growth is unpredictable. Landlords and tech tenants need to work together to create innovative ways of leasing. Subleasing and using existing spaces that require minimal tenant improvement is a good option for startups in the growth phase, but this is in short supply right now. More tech-friendly buildings, next-generation, infrastructure-ready spaces Downtown could allow more companies to open their doors with minimal capital expenditure.