Indianapolis, Day 2 (Part I)
By Britney T-M
TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.
Yesterday had me going from the moment I got off the plane, but the first full day in Indy took me all around the city. These four spaces visited took me uptown, downtown, and also out-of-town. Even though the Midwest is slowly growing its coworking scene, there have been a number of developments in the last few years, and had me quite busy during my Indianapolis stay. Day 2 rounded out a total of six different sites in the city, and will probably see a few more as time goes on.
In a neighborhood of office space buildings in the suburban area of Castleton, Indianapolis, it looked like what the Service Center’s lot used to be – bustling malls, loads of restaurant, and of course, covered in asphalt with no sidewalks. To get there, the bus line took me straight through the mall parking lots which was convenient, but dropped me at a stop on the side of the highway, which made me feel kind of like a hobo.Walking to the space, there were properties of companies such as Spectrum Technology, JBD, and even Wendy’s! Finally arriving at Indy CoZ, I was excited to see the layout of one of these behemoths.
I met with Megan O’Donnell, a coordinator at Indy CoZ, who took me on a tour of what was once a church. Founder and building owner Frank Howard also acquierd EventzPlus which also operates in the space. There is a tiered membership pricing (base, midlevel, and high), with special discounts on use of the event facilities.
Although they do not yet have sponsorships, larger corporate entities (perhaps some of their Castleway neighbors?) would do good by having their employees work out of there for networking purposes and gaining the event space discounts for large events. With hotels and malls in the surrounding area, there is incredible potential for events such as regional meetings, company retreats, and team building purposes. They had just hosted a college athlete mentorship program in one of their spaces, which made me think of one of our members. I wish we could offer the same amenities!
Their members are mostly individuals whose companies have many tele-commuting employees, are B2B companies, or consultants. Jared Laughlin for instance, has been a member since opening. He happened to just stumble upon Indy CoZ one day, liked Frank and his vision (as well as the price) and decided to join. The company he works for is doing software development for the healthcare industry and is based out of Madison, WI.
When asked what some unexpected challenges were for the space, Megan said that getting their name out and translation and education of the coworking concept to people and what they are trying to do were the most difficult aspects. Their location probably doesn’t help with exposure or convenience to the individual worker, but if more companies had employees as Indy CoZ coworking members, their access to a network of other professionals and access to space would be entirely beneficial.
After Indy CoZ, Scottie picked me up, and we traveled to the southeastern district of downtown known as Fountain Square. It is here that the neighborhood of restaurants, events, and ma + pa stores still thrive because of the spirited community in this historic district. A part of Deylen Realty‘s newest property, The Hinge, The Hinge Bureau is a coworking space in a ‘mixed-use’ building in an area between Fountain Square and downtown Indy. The Hinge features studio apartments, 1-2 bedroom apartments and loft style apartments, all with private balconies, terrace access, and a workout facility that may also be accesible to The Hinge Bureau members. Nestled right next door to the Bureau is Rook – the newest restaurant from the creator of Siam Square and Black Market.
The Hinge Bureau is still under construction, Todd VonDeylen (president, Deylen Realty, Inc) was willing to show us around. Throughout our meet, Todd was quite busy answering construction questions, having conversations with contractors, and speaking with potential tennants, so I was incredibly grateful for the time that he set aside for us to visit.
As Todd walked us through the space, it amazed me that he hadn’t been to many coworking spaces. “It’s always something we wanted to try,” he says. Even though it is still in the process of construction, I can say their first attempt is on point – mailboxes and lockers right next to the recycling center, general work desk area, kitchenette, two conference rooms, three telephone booths, and ten private offices.
Nikki Sutton was enlisted for The Hinge’s interior design, and does an incredible job making the space aesthetically pleasing while leaving room for creativity and productivity to breed, and for functionality to take place. Sutton was also the designer for The Speak Easy, and has already made quite an impression with her work in the Indianapolis community. There were a couple elements that are similar to the BoxJelly – the red corrugated plastic panels and wood elements made me feel right at home.
Built to accommodate 54 members, The Hinge is positioned towards young professionals. There was an “if you built it, they will come” sort of mentality, which never seems very sustainable. However, Todd pointed to all the different vantage points that position The Hinge for its residents and users – the walkability of its location, the cultured neighborhood, the centralized location in the city, and the large number of independent workers in the software, tech, and creative fields in Indianapolis.
When asked what type of community he envisions for the coworking space, he sees a lot of creative types, writers, coders, and marketers. I thought it interesting when he said ‘writers‘; it seemed to indicate an understanding of and interest in the existing community they were entering.
Once we finished touring the space, Scottie and I stopped off at Rook – a non-traditional banh mi shop featuring a menu that has Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, Indian, and American influences for their sandwiches.
I’m a sucker for anything in a peanut sauce, so I got the Black Wing which featured beef in peanut curry – the flaming spices were gently toned down by the smooth peanut curry and cooled with the traditional carrots, radish, and peppers. Scottie got the Crow’s Nest, which features Chinese BBQ pork – that salty and slightly-sweet taste tango danced me away to a feeling of satiation, and filled all of my palate’s desires.
It took a while for the order (probably because there was a table of 10 right before us), but looking around at all of the design elements was an inspirational feast. There was a paper roll for the menu, monochromatic billings from old performances in Fountain Square lining the walls and ceilings in the ordering station, and a condiment area that hygienically stationed the recycling and trash all into one compact space. But it’s when I saw the whole lineup for Siracha, all in the 28oz. bottle size, that I knew these people weren’t f*ing around.
Taste, design, and style are all important elements, but when all of that successfully incorporates functionality into a space, it is nothing short of amazing. The Hinge, the Hinge Bureau, and Rook – all of it was inspiring, even in the simple fact that knowing that places such as these not only look good in the plans, but also show promising signs during their fruition.
After such a delightful lunch, it was hard to get back into work mode. The thought of traveling into the center of the city (and later 30 minutes out of it), was slightly draining. But you don’t come all the way for nothing, then cry about it when you go home because you didn’t go big…so even without a confirmed appointment, I thought we needed to stop by this space.
Why I say ‘need’ is because The Platform is a coworking space with tenant organizations that are focused around social innovation – which is unique in the coworking industry in general, and exactly what we’ll be learning about at George Mason. An initative of LISC, with the city of Indianapolis, The Platform is geared specifially towards non-profits devoted to neighborhood revitalization.
As the old west wing of the City Market, it would have been demolitied if not for LISC’s idea to make a coworking space. The $1.5 million renovation of the 14,000sq.ft. space was funded by Rebuild Indy (Mayor Ballard’s economic development fund). I wasn’t able to schedule a meeting with someone from The Platform, but I thought I’d stop by anyways to see if we could have a general tour. Elise at the front desk was very accommodating, and took us around the space. She works with the Food Coalition of Central Indiana, which operates out of the space and mans the front desk as part of a services-for-membership trade.
The first floor is composed of the front desk offices, a large general space which can be used for events and is used for the farmer’s market in the winter, and workplace area. The second floor has the tenant spaces as well as conference rooms and meeting rooms, and a lounge area. When going into the City Market, we realized that it actually connects to The Platform through the back of the LISC offices!
It describes itself as a design center where the Indianapolis people can design their communities. All tenants are related to neighborhood revitalization and building – Growing Places Indy, Indianapolis Coalition for Neighborhood Development, and Wishard Health Services are just a few tenants to name. It’s great when you’re working next to someone and get an answer to your quick question about WordPress plugins, so just imagine how that will translate to the next macro level of communication between organizations. Hours of research and barriers to information can be reduced, and the productivity needed for change and implementation can be increased to the next power of progress. It’s all very promising!
Indianapolis, Day 2 continued in Part II…