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Co-Working Spaces Booming in Gowanus as More Workers Shun Offices

By Leslie Albrecht | June 12, 2015 8:17am | Updated on June 12, 2015 5:34pm
 Brooklyn Creative League's expansion opens on June 20, and Coworkrs plans to open at 68 Third St. in August.
Co-working Spaces Are Growing in Gowanus
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GOWANUS — Husband and wife team Neil Carlson and Erin Carney poured their life savings into launching co-working space Brooklyn Creative League in 2009, and six years later the gamble has more than paid off.

BCL is poised to expand this month and will soon serve about 250 members.

The light-filled space has had a waiting list since soon after it opened, and demand shows no signs of slowing. Nearly one in 10 workers in the Park Slope/Gowanus area now work at home, more than any other part of Brooklyn, according to U.S. Census data mapped by DNAinfo New York.

The shift in work habits has brought a mini co-working boom to Gowanus.

The Manhattan-based Cowork|rs is opening its first Brooklyn location at 68 Third St. in August. The 46,000-square foot space will have room for roughly 500 workers. Amenities include two roof decks, foosball and Ping-Pong tables, and a different keg of micro-brewed beer provided each week by Lost Tribes Brew.

Aside from those frills, Cowork|rs also offers discounts on business support including human resources and payroll services.

"All you need is your laptop and your cell phone and you can have a company," founder Shlomo Silber told DNAinfo. Desks rent for $450 a month and private offices start at $800.

Other co-working spaces that have opened in the last year nearby include St. Lydia's Dinner Church on Bond and Sackett streets and Cowork in Brooklyn, a combination business coaching and shared workspace for female entrepreneurs on Third Avenue and Union Street. Not too far away is South Slope's BrooklynWorks at 159.

Plans are also underway to turn Park Slope's former Tea Lounge space into a combination co-working space and cafe, and the national co-working chain Industrious is slated to open its first New York location in Prospect Heights this year.

Carlson and Carney see Brooklyn Creative League as a mom-and-pop alternative to the big players on the co-working scene.

While some larger shared workspaces focus mainly on the tech and start-up world, BCL attracts professionals and small companies across a range of industries. Members include a passive architecture firm, the crowdsourcing platform ioby, a rare book dealer, and several writers and journalists.

"We've managed to attract a really cool and interesting group of people — that's one of the things that distinguishes us from our larger competitors," Carlson said.

BCL also takes great care in designing its space. Carlson and Carney could fit more people into BCL's 20,000 square feet, but they've chosen not to because they want to maintain a comfortable working environment where members can collaborate if they wish.

Workspaces are arranged in thematic "clusters" meant to foster "authentic and reciprocal" relationships between members, Carlson said. There are also weekly potluck lunches and spots such as a kitchen/lounge where members can interact in a way that feels less forced than traditional networking events.

The strategy has worked well, and several members have struck up fruitful working relationships, Carlson said.

BCL's new space will incorporate several suggestions from members. There will be soundproof booths suitable for podcasting and a "standing bar" (a counter for laptops) where workers can take a break from sitting.

"Being locally-owned and not having venture backing and big investor money behind us, we're able to be more focused on our members, because we're not maximizing returns for investors," Carlson said.