Kennedy: Co-working facilities could benefit from COVID-19

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With telecommuting gaining new converts in the coronavirus pandemic – Facebook is the latest tech giant to give a thumbs up to more employees working remotely – commercial real estate observers suggest co-working facilities could benefit.

For now, though, Tom Nardacci, who operates co-working spaces in Troy and Albany, is focused on getting those offices into compliance with New York’s Phase 2 reopening.

The state, which is slowly restarting the economy to keep COVID-19 in check, set four phases for reopening by geographic region and type of business. Phase 2 could begin soon, enabling a wide array of firms to resume business: in-store retail, professional services, finance and insurance, real estate and rental/leasing, and administrative support.

Nardacci used New York’s two-month shutdown to spruce up his Troy Innovation Garage and Bull Moose Club Albany, and more recently added signs with reminders about handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.

Physical changes have occurred, too. Fewer shared places for remote work will be available in either site’s wide-open floor plan. A few more private office suites, which are fully occupied at both locations, may be added in Troy.

Troy also got a handwashing sink in its open space; touchless faucets are now in all bathrooms. A contract with a national company will bring in hospital-grade sanitizer, soap and cleaning products.

Live events – the Troy and Albany locations combined for more than 100 programs in the past year, drawing 5,000 attendees, Nardacci says – will be canceled for the remainder of 2020. Meeting rooms no longer will be available for rent.

Nardacci says the goal of attracting more drop-in and temporary users has been set aside. His two sites operate with a combination of monthly memberships and “flex” and day passes, but the focus now will be on members. “It’ll be hard to welcome in day-pass users and still try to control the environment,” Nardacci says.

Aside from the workspace, the sites also promoted “community” – Bull Moose Club drawing on its nearness and access to the Capitol, and the Garage aimed at supporting start-ups and “creative” professionals.

“Our community went virtual fairly quickly,” Nardacci says. “People want the physical space, for sure, and that’s a big part of what we offer, but people want to stay connected.” 

Nardacci, founder and CEO of Gramercy Communications, a public affairs and public relations firm in Troy, opened the Garage in 2017 and Bull Moose in 2018. This year, he’ll add a third co-working space, Westwey Club, in Rhode Island, the first out-of-state site.

Nardacci says the Providence location, like the two in the Capital Region, has sparked inquiries from larger firms “looking to embrace work-from-home and also being able to offer options to employees” without the hassle of managing more office space.

And like those who follow commercial real estate, he believes “the trend will continue.” 

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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