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Shared workspace and idea incubator planned for downtown Rochester

A new kind of office is opening up to keep up with the rising number of floating workers, whether freelancers, work-from-home professionals, independent contractors, or any of those generally flexible employees who define the new way of working in this new economy.

Shared workspaces are giving home-based and vagabond workers who office at coffee shops, restaurants and other public places their own work place and more. It comes with a desk, internet, conference rooms, and other office supplies, along with the opportunity to collaborate, brainstorm and interact with co-workers in and out of their fields.

Shared workspaces can be found in Chicago, New York, San Diego, Denver, Austin, and even smaller cities in the U.S. and also across Europe.

Downtown Rochester is in the process of joining the list.

Rob Ray, president and organizer of ShareSpace Rochester, has found a 2,200-square foot, second floor space to lease at the Rochester Area Regional Athletics (or RA-RA) building downtown on Second Street. He expects to welcome workers by November 1.

For a membership - there are many levels - or drop-in fee, workspace sharers will have access to a desk, wi-fi, conference rooms, projectors and other office supplies -- even coffee. Some memberships come with a floating desk and other services for $25-$150 per month, depending on services. Or for $300 a month, a permanent work area with lockable file cabinets and other office equipment and supplies is available.

"This segment of workers keeps growing. As of late, with this whole economic malaise we're going through people are getting more creative in trying to find employment and thinking outside the box," says Ray.

Membership would also come with a reciprocal use of workspaces in other cities and countries, giving Rochester members an office when they travel and visitors to Detroit a space to work as well.

"With this you have a place that you're supposed to go to for work and the coffee is free," Ray says. "Instead of working on a 2-foot-by-2 foot little table where people are bustling around, you get a collaborative environment. It can be a place for inspiration or to get some feedback on an idea or you can just work on whatever it is you're working on."

Across metro Detroit there are groups participating in meet-ups for this very reason, but this gives them a permanent place. Ray sees ShareSpace Rochester as a pre-incubator where there's no need to have a proven business plan or financial stability to join, as is the case with most business incubators. He also hopes it will nurture the enthusiasm that comes from conferences such as TedX and Ignite.

"My hope is this space becomes the hub where these ideas and these people have a place to go so these ideas don't die," he says.

Ray pictures it working something like this: Members wanting to work undisturbed could display a red card, maybe on a coffee coaster, meaning, let them work. A green coaster would indicate willingness to hear ideas or just talk.

"It's more affordable than your own office and you pick up the social enterprise aspect of the co-working environment plus the resources we'll offer with conference rooms, copier, projector, coffee, wi-fi, the whole kit and caboodle," says Ray, whose architect friend will design the space pro bono. "And you can do it without being stuck in a coffee shop or a closet."

Source:  Rob Ray, president and organizer of ShareSpace Rochester
Writer:  Kim North Shine

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