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Freelancer Envisions Co-Working Space for Local Entrepreneurs

By Emily Frost | November 19, 2013 9:56am
 The space would fit around 100 people each day, said Sharon Schanzer, who is trying to get the concept off the ground. 
Upper West Sider Plans First Ever Neighborhood Co-working Space
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Sunlight streams through Sharon Schanzer's east-facing windows, illuminating a large computer screen, while the sound of a jackhammer reverberates up to her ninth-floor apartment on Columbus Avenue, a space that doubles as her home and office.  

It's not so much the construction noise that gets to her, she said, but the lack of any other sounds. She longs for the hum of dozens of busy workers, plugging away on laptops, refilling coffee cups and chatting briefly between tasks.

As a freelance graphic designer and technology consultant, Schanzer, 50, wants the best of both worlds: to be her own boss and to feel like she's part of a community on a daily basis.

One solution, a co-working space where individuals pay a fee to use a communal office, is a concept that's cropping up across the city — except on the Upper West Side, she said.

Finding no options north of Midtown, Schanzer has spent the last six months drumming up interest in a co-working space on the Upper West Side, scouting potential locations, building a business model and hunting for investors.

"People have this thing about Downtown is where everybody wants to be," she said, noting that there are plenty of people living on the Upper West Side who don't want to commute that far, because they want to be near their kids or simply don't want to deal with the hassle.

Schanzer is the mother of a 5-year-old boy who goes to school on the Upper East Side, and she doesn't want to take time away from him by adding a commute. 

"The interest level is very high" based on conversations she's had with neighborhood networking groups and her own co-working meetup group, she said. News of the proposed space was first reported by West Side Rag

"Pop into any local coffee shop and you will notice all types of freelancers and entrepreneurs typing away on laptops, even collaborating spontaneously," said Jennifer Maguire Coughlin, who runs her own public relations firm from the neighborhood, as well as an Upper West Side "Work From Home" networking group. "A co-working space would fill a major void."

Schanzer has her eye on a currently unoccupied, 17,000-square-foot space over two floors at West 65th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. She has already toured the space and even had an architect draft a layout plan.

Investment capital is almost the only thing holding the project back, and she estimated she'd need between $500,000 to $1 million to get it off the ground. She has already reached out to investors, but none have yet to step forward with an offer of cash.

At Grind, a New York City-based co-working space Schanzer has experience with, it costs $35 to drop in on any weekday or $500 a month — prices she thinks she'll have to charge in order to produce revenue. Schanzer would need at least 300 people to sign up, with space for around 100 rotating workers each day at the West 65th Street location, and she mentioned lawyers as tenants who would potentially be interested in the space. 

She envisions stocking the space with such amenities as nice chairs, locker space, bike storage, free coffee, conference rooms, personal electricity outlets and big, sleek desks.

"I am not tied to the space, I'm tied to the idea," she said of the possible Lincoln Square location. 

Schanzer is convening interested people at French Roast on Broadway on Nov. 21 at 10 a.m. She's hoping that by getting the word out there enough an investor or two will step forward.

"The need is there," she said. "There are a lot of entrepreneurs here."