EVERETT — Working from home may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Sure, the kitchen and laundry are always available but when they’re jack-hammering your street or the neighbor’s dog is barking up a storm, your focus can fly out the window.
Wear ear plugs, go back to the office or set up shop at the local cafe?
Shane Kidwell, a local real estate investor and others offer an alternative — renting a workstation in a co-working facility.
Kidwell, the founder of Dwell Mortgage, recently opened Think Tank Cowork in downtown Everett at 2817 Wetmore Ave.
The business offers workstations, private offices, conference rooms and other amenities.
Workstations and private offices range in price from about $300 a month to several thousand with a six or 12-month lease, said Kidwell, whose company, Dwell Mortgage occupies space at Think Tank.
Kidwell bought the property in 2020 and completely remodeled the three-story, 120-year-old structure.
The sturdy, brick building is just 25-feet wide.
“Although it is kind of small, to me it’s like a Swiss Army knife. It can do a lot of things,” Kidwell said.
The project included removing the narrow, enclosed stairs and suspended popcorn ceiling.
Now the building’s modern, industrial design and clean lines offer views of the original support beams and brick walls,
The second floor, which opens onto Wetmore Ave., has a coffee bar, exclusively for occupants. Private offices occupy the first and third floors.
On the third floor there’s a podcast studio and common area with Foosball and shuffleboard. A small, open air roof top patio overlooks the North Cascades.
Want to start work at 5 a.m. or work until 2 a.m.?
The building is open 24/7 to members. Your smartphone unlocks the doors, Kidwell said.
“It’s not just a co-working space, it’s the restoration of a classic Everett building,” Kidwell said of the $1.5 million project. “Both of those things are equally important to me.”
Kidwell’s idea to develop a shared workspace was percolating before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
When the pandemic struck and working from home became the norm for many office workers, he revised his business concept. But he didn’t abandon it.
“The model shifted from an abundance of common areas to private offices,” Kidwell said.
“My thought was people are going to want to get back together,” Kidwell said. “Though they may not want to get back together in the way they had before.”
With that in mind, Kidwell continued to search for the right building.
His real estate agent pointed him toward the 4,500 square-foot 1900- era building, located a block south of Funko.
A resident of Snohomish, Kidwell wanted to stay in Snohomish County.
But when he stepped into the narrow, dark building on Wetmore Avenue, he gave it an immediate thumbs- down. “It was ugly!,” he said.
His real estate agent, however, encouraged him to consider the building’s potential.
“I was like — I don’t see it!,” Kidwell said.
Still, he spoke with several builders and when they also pointed out its potential, he changed his mind.
In fall 2020, Kidwell made the purchase, determined to develop a co-working space.
“We’ve been hearing for years that people wanted this kind of business in downtown,” said Liz Stenning, executive director of the Downtown Everett Association, a nonprofit promoting the city’s core.
“This is the first co-working space in downtown. It’s great for startups and individuals who want to have a presence in downtown,” Stenning said. “It has the benefit of all these shared resources and being able to go out to lunch, dinner. I think it’s a great economic driver for downtown.”
The Downtown Everett Association is a new member of Washington Main Street, part of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and a division of the state’s Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation.
One of the criteria for membership is that over half a downtown’s buildings be over 50 years old.
“Everett has about 80%,” Stenning said. “Seeing that building restored and revitalized is a great economic driver for downtown.”
Dan Eernissee, Everett’s economic development director said the city’s downtown is “full of opportunities for aspiring owner-occupants who want to enjoy the financial and aesthetic benefits of renovating a historic space for their business.”
Think Tank’s success — it is now more than 50% occupied — “should encourage others to join the tightknit downtown Everett business community,” Eernissee said.
Kidwell hopes his effort will inspire other investors and entrepreneurs to renovate a building or locate their businesses in Everett’s central business district.
Downtown Everett is awash with potential, he said.
“This is where young families and entrepreneurs and business owners are going to want to come,” Kidwell said. “If you drive business down here. They’re going to want to eat —.they’re going to want to drink— they’re going to want to live down here.”
“It’s a great place. You’ve got the city, the port, the waterfront and its close to I-5,” Kidwell said.
“It just takes one person to build something the right way,” he said. “Once one neighbor starts mowing his lawn everybody else feels the need to mow their lawn. Pretty soon you have the nicest neighborhood around.”
Is co-working still a thing?
“The number of spaces available for coworking — a concept mostly unheard of just 10 years ago — has grown dramatically around the world in recent years. While only about 160 co-working spaces existed worldwide in 2008, there were close to 19,000 in 2018,” according to a report in MIT Sloan Review.
“As one of the few bright spots in the office-space market after the 2008 economic recession, coworking spaces represented one of the few sources of growing demand,” the report said.
But those numbers and the potential demand pre-date the pandemic and the need for social distancing.
“The idea of working in one of these spaces, which bring large numbers of strangers together to use shared desks and communal areas, seemed almost laughable at the peak of the pandemic,” the report said.
As a result, it looked as if co-working spaces would go the way of the dinosaurs.
Kidwell pivoted and altered their vision,
Instead of an open space plan , his original concept, he drew up a floor plan that featured private offices and computer nooks for drop-in clients.
The latest studies suggest that co-working is here to stay and could even become part of corporate culture.
“Co-working spaces will become even more important and more popular in the post-pandemic world, not just for entrepreneurs and freelancers… but especially for large companies,” the MIT report said.
“Once employees have experienced remote work, ‘they’re going to want to continue,’ said Kate Lister, president of consulting company Global Workplace Analytics, told MIT Sloan Review. Lister predicts a “much larger percentage of the population working form home on a permanent basis.”
Some larger companies may consider reducing their dependence on large, corporate offices, Kidwell said.
Employers may choose not to maintain a 6,000 square-foot office, but “will still need to collaborate in small groups one or two days a week.” Kidwell said.
Co-working spaces could be the solution, becoming a refuge for the work from home set who need a place to go when the the neighbor’s dog is barking or the jackhammers are going full tilt.
“As a business owner, I have that need, and I thought others probably have that need as well,” Kidwell said.