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Coworking Fever Spreads To Wicker Park Warehouse On Division Street

By Alisa Hauser | April 12, 2017 4:08pm
 A vintage building in Wicker Park at 1714-22 W. Division St.
A vintage building in Wicker Park at 1714-22 W. Division St.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — Two upper floors of a warehouse on Division Street near the CTA Blue Line Division L station will become an 18,000-square-foot shared office space operated by growing Chicago-based chain Assemble.

"We've already got tour requests from people in Wicker Park even though there is nothing to tour yet," Assemble's co-founder Phil Domenico said of the response to the company's reported expansion to 1714 W. Division St.

On Wednesday, Domenico said that if everything goes as planned during a build out, Assemble will open in November catering to about 200 clients who rent space to work.

"It's a fairly large construction project. We need to put in bathrooms, elevators, new electrical. It's pretty much an empty shell," Domenico said.

 A rendering of Assemble's new office coming to 1714 W. Division St.
A rendering of Assemble's new office coming to 1714 W. Division St.
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Courtesy of Assemble

The massive building has sat empty since the fall of 2015, when Italian-born sculptor Giovanni "John" Desiderio Bucci, who operated a studio in the building since 1988, sold the property and relocated to Georgia.

Plans were initially under way to turn the warehouse into 24 loft-style apartments anchored by retail storefronts, but owners New York City-based company, Jenel Management, which invested in many other Wicker Park buildings, decided earlier this year to switch gears and offer offices instead.

Domenico said he signed a 15-year lease and Assemble plans to stick around.

Joseph Dushey, Jenel's vice president of leasing and acquisitions, confirmed Assemble's lease and said he is working with Mid-America Real Estate Group to bring on a tenant for the retail storefront on the ground floor.

"We are looking for [a tenant] that will not only bring energy to the building but to the community and Division Street as a whole," Dushey said.

Monthly rental rates start at $350 for co-working, where a member can access the space and all its amenities but not have a dedicated office area, to $600 for a one-person office and $800 for a three-person office.

Domenico said the one-person offices are up to 70 square feet with high ceilings and glass walls.

In addition to offering 24-hour access with a key card, Assemble provides Internet, access to a conference room and coffee.

"So many of our competitors it's a la carte. These small business have enough unknowns and just want to pay one price," he said.

Domenico said that Assemble's two other locations — in the Gold Coast at 1165 N. Clark St., which opened in Sept. 2014, and in the West Loop at 600 W. Jackson Blvd., which opened in Aug. 2015 — are both full and have waiting lists.

"Every year we are growing. When we asked our members where to go next, they said Wicker Park and Lincoln Park and we were fortunate to have found this building. I'm certainly bullish on [shared offices] as the demand continues. It's still a location game to go where the need is," Domenico said.

Domenico said Assemble's current members come from "a dynamic mix of companies," with a lot of developers and contractors, attorneys, architects and even a parking garage operator.

"It would be pretty boring with just a bunch of folks with new apps and all technology [companies]. We have cool technology companies and normal companies that are not as sexy and are good to have in the mix," he said.

Wicker Park currently has one shared office space, Free Range at 2141 W. North Ave., which opened in 2013 and is about 4,000 square-feet with 50 members, according to owner Liane Jackson.

Jackson said demand for private offices is increasing and Free Range currently has no private offices available for rent, though that changes since she rents the spots month-to-month.

Jackson said the entry of a new player to the local co-working scene like Assemble "benefits everyone."

"It gets more people to be alert to the fact that co-working is an option. We have a women's focus here, with all five of us on staff women. We have a lot of remote workers and tech start ups and freelancers. It's an interesting hodgepodge," Jackson said.