RIVER NORTH — A new startup in Chicago will offer a workspace packed with Google-level perks for a fraction of the price.
Industrious hopes to help fast-track fledgling local companies by renting space in a chic River North loft to a hand-picked group of individuals and small teams.
"Chicago is transforming into the Silicon Valley of the Midwest in my mind," says co-founder Justin Stewart, a New Yorker who cooked up the idea with his childhood friend from Michigan. "But there wasnt really anything out there that would let people to have desirable office space in a coworking environment."
Coworking spaces exist, but the "desirable" element is key. Stewart worked in one while at a small real estate firm, and found the options "too uptight, too corporate, and just too old-looking," prompting him and his partner Jamie Hodari to ask, "why is there nothing in between?"
Their solution is a "hive-style workspace" set to open in River North at 320 W. Ohio St. by the end of August. Curated by the pair's partner and investor, local Phil Tadros — the man behind Bow Truss coffee — the space will house 170 people when it opens this summer, and an additional 80 when the second phase opens in the fall.
The numbers break down to roughly 32 offices and 32 coworking individuals in the initial opening. Office rental is limited to companies with 10 or fewer employees, and all leases are month-to-month, starting at $400 a month.
Fans of Bow Truss and other local hotspots from Tadros' design firm, doejo, can anticipate the aesthetic: industrial with exposed brick, minimally designed and littered with repurposed, found objects.
"The space speaks for itself, because it's such a gorgeous space that we gutted and cleaned up," Tadros said of the 17,000-square-foot loft on Ohio street, two floors above Red Frog Events. "For us it's really just respecting that, and creating glass offices, and finding industrial tables and different elements that are gonna help complement the space, and the personalities within."
It's that mix of personalities that Stewart hopes will be the space's greatest draw.
"People love knowing that it's a diverse group of companies they're exposed to," he said. "I thought tech people would only want to be around tech people, and apparently, that's not the case. All these people are entrepreneurs, and they get their ideas from talking to people. Putting all these creative minds in one place, that's what's getting them excited."
To that end, the office will include common areas, lounges and even "a little bodega and mini-Bow Truss" coffee shop with pop-up vendors, Tadros said.
Office manager Laurie Skurow, who grew up in West Bloomfield, Mich. with Stewart and Hodari, will book lectures and events in the evenings.
As of mid-July, Industrious River North is about 75 percent full. Stewart said the space could easily be booked before opening, but they're committed to renting to "a really good mix [of companies], and making sure this is right for them, and that they are right for us."
"But even before there was even like a steel bar up, we were already 50 percent full," Stewart said. With that knowledge, the team is already shopping for future sites in Fulton River District and in the West Loop, where they're already in talks for a second space.
In Stewart's mind, the ideal renter experience would be "talking to a lawyer, talking with an accountant and brainstorming a collaboration with a fashion designer" on the walk from an office to the kitchen.
"We're open to all types. There's nothing we're going to shy away from," he said. "We want to make it as diverse as possible."