By Dave Fidlin
The historic Broker’s Building in Downtown San Diego is undergoing a metamorphosis this year as the deeply rooted site gets ready for its next chapter — hosting a modern office concept behind a still-growing business model.
Spurred by the announcement of $100 million in Series A funding early this year, Carlsbad-based CommonGrounds Workplace announced plans of opening a Downtown location next summer at the Broker’s site, 404 Market St.
When CommonGrounds opens it doors, it will join a growing list of other businesses throughout the Downtown area that offer variations on coworking amenities for entrepreneurs and employees of companies opting to forego dedicated office space.
Use of co-working spaces costs money — something the local coffee shop does not charge, out right, for the use of a table and chair as you sip on your brew of choice. But professionals in the co-working industry say they provide a number of other benefits, including networking opportunities, ready-access to amenities, equipment and resources you might not own and a professional work environment.
Jacob Bates, CEO of CommonGrounds, said the secured funding capital pushed them to set the goal of opening about 50 new offices across the U.S. through 2021.
Opening one of its workplaces in the heart of San Diego was obvious, Bates said in an interview with Downtown News.
“There’s an unmet demand,” Bates said. “It’s a very under-penetrated market. The Generation Z workers and the millennials, are requiring a different type of product.”
Other companies, including some with headquarters outside California, have also noted the potential for having a coworking operation in Downtown San Diego.
Chicago-based Novel Coworking, which opened its first location in 2013, laid roots in San Diego 2 1/2 years ago with a Gaslamp location, 1111 Sixth Ave. Initially, Novel had 35 offices, but the availability has since swelled to 85 spaces as additional floors have become available.
“We were 98% occupied within the first eight months,” said Rachel Quinto, regional sales manager with Novel’s San Diego location, referring to the first phase of the operation. “We’ve seen huge growth.”
Quinto said coworking spaces are well suited for San Diego — particularly Downtown, where entrepreneurship has been growing and flourishing in recent years.
“In San Diego, we’re seeing a lot of business growth,” Quinto said. “People are attracted to the affordable and creative options we have available. We’re on a really exciting growth trajectory right now.”
Downtown Works, which operates out of a former law firm building, 5050 W. B St., began offering its amenities in September 2016 and has experienced similar growth, Candace Vanderbilt, community curator, said.
Before Downtown Works opened its doors to the business community, Vanderbilt said the office space was drastically overhauled aesthetically and functionally to mesh with the operation’s mission statement.
“For us, it’s more than just having space available,” Vanderbilt said. “It’s about collaboration and creating a sense of community.”
Vanderbilt said she and others working at Downtown Works share in the passion of being a part of a trend that keeps growing.
“This is an area that’s just blossoming with startup businesses,” Vanderbilt said. “We’re trying to support that ecosystem.”
As for CommonGrounds, Bates said the operation is being positioned differently from others in the industry space in the hopes of standing out from the crowded pack.
In addition to offering coworking space, CommonGrounds is offering a tailored solutions model known as workplace-as-a-service. The goal, according to Bates and others in the company, is to create flexible workplace products and services geared toward companies ranging from startups to Fortune 1500 enterprises.
“CommonGrounds’ enterprise-grade workplace design fosters an enriched work life environment engineered to help companies attract and retain talent,” Bates said in a January news release announcing the Series A funding commitment.
CommonGrounds’ imminent emergence Downtown came together, in part, through a partnership forged with Pacifica Enterprises, a San Diego-based real estate investment firm.
With Pacifica’s resources in the mix, CommonGrounds’ shared workplace in the Broker Building also will be complimented with several ground-level restaurants and a rooftop deck with panoramic views.
— Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.