HARLEM — The office chairs are still wrapped in plastic and some of the light fixtures from Restoration Hardware have yet to be installed, but in just a couple of weeks The Harlem Garage, a new co-working business incubator off of Frederick Douglass Boulevard, will be a beehive buzzing with activity.
Community Coordinator Ryan Young expects to see entrepreneurs hard at work in one of the 50 desks and creative conversations in the lounge area while meetings take place in the loft conference room.
At night, the garage at 318 W. 118th Street will become a community event space.
"Networking is a huge aspect of Harlem Garage. If you are a social butterfly this is the place for you," said Young during a tour of the almost-completed space.
"There's also the benefit of being around other businesses. You'll have a tech developer and lawyer with a private practice just footsteps away," he added.
For $300 per month, entrepreneurs get one of the 50 desks, wi-fi and access to the kitchen and conference room. Discounts will be offered for minority and women-owned businesses.
There will be people who rent a desk only part of the time under the flex pass plan and a $15 daily pass. Young said demand and anticipation for the space has been strong and Harlem Garage is likely to have a waiting list when they open.
"The benefit of being around other businesses is that you get the feeling of what it's like to be productive," said Young.
The space was once used as a former 5,000 square foot garage, hence the name. Walls and beams had to be knocked down to open up the space.
The Harlem Garage, a joint venture between MicroOffice, which provides co-working spaces, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, is the latest in a series of small business incubators now in use or planned for Harlem.
Five women scientists from Mount Sinai also hope to launch a biotech incubator in East Harlem for medical startups.
Leon Lyazidi, director of LP Media Consulting, is Harlem Garage's first official tenant.
His firm has been working with Harlem Garage on branding, marketing and web site development and has also landed clients such as New York University and Momofuku Milk Bar.
Lyazidi, started off as a freelancer. While developing, his firm was previously located in a different co-working space.
"Being around people on a regular basis who had launched their own businesses helped me learn some of the tricks that you wouldn't if you just opened an office," he said.
Lyazidi says he learned about time management, managing the business's finances and developing client relationships at his former co-working space. There's also the financial flexibility of not having to be committed to a long-term lease before your business is ready.
"The most important thing is to be surrounded by people like you and to have the ability to network and utilize the resources there. Most of the time you are walking distance from anyone, a designer, an app developer, a cartoonist or a marketer."
During the four years he has lived in Harlem, Lyazidi said he has met more people like himself, working freelance as a way to launch their own business. He sees the Harlem Garage as an outgrowth of the changes happening in Harlem.
"You have to embrace forward thinking and forward movement. The best thing you can do is provide a place like the Harlem Garage that fosters entrepreneurial spirit and gives people a place to do things more professionally," he said.