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Harlem Small Business Coworking Space to Close as Costs Rise

 The Harlem Garage will close after just three years, according to an email from the organizers.
The Harlem Garage will close after just three years, according to an email from the organizers.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — A co-working space designed to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs and local small businesses thrive is closing three years after it opened.

Harlem Garage, located at 318 W. 118th St., was once a 5,000 square foot garage prior to renovations and was billed as an incubator for small businesses to flourish when it opened in 2013.  

Organizers hyped the demand and anticipation for the co-working space, but management told DNAinfo New York this week that the expense of running the space was a driving force in allowing the garage’s lease to expire at the end of June.

“Our lease is expiring and we’ve decided not to renew as the economics would not be favorable,” David Rotbard, co-Founder of Micro Office which provides co-working spaces, said in an email.

“We’re really glad to have been part of building the entrepreneurship community in Harlem and we’re happy to see it continue to grow. We’re also thankful to our members and the (New York Economic Development Corporation) for their support.” 

Rotbard declined to go into further details regarding finances, only stating, “we don’t have the capacity.”

In a closing notice email obtained by DNAinfo, the management informed members they will be required to vacate by June 28th and will receive a refund of their deposit.

“This decision was very hard to make as the local Harlem community has benefited from a convenient neighborhood coworking and community space which was very competitively priced, and we were happy to be that service provider,” the email read.

“The New York real estate market has continued to rise in price and this area has seen a sharp increase in rates and those are inconsistent with what the coworking market can support. We are proud to have been a part of your business’ and Harlem’s growth.”

The company offered members the option to transfer to its Chelsea location at their current rates, which range from $450 a month for a private office to $15 for a daily pass. 

It also applauded another co-working company, WeWork, which opened a venue in Harlem on West 125th Street.

Kimberly Watkins, who leases space in the garage for her company inSHAPE Fitness, said the decision was upsetting to her both as a Harlem resident and a small business owner.

“My small team and I worked on our online fitness application here and performed all of our business operations and development here,” she said.

“We need small businesses to plant their roots and thrive in Harlem in order to keep the ball moving forward. The closing of the Garage represents the uphill battle that we face in this area.”

Watkins said a place for small businesses in Harlem is crucial and she has not decided exactly what her business will do next. 

“I also chose this location because as a Harlem resident, I am extremely concerned about small business and overall community development. We cannot sustain Harlem as a growth neighborhood in our city on hip bars and acclaimed restaurants alone,” she said.