Co-working in downtown Austin has arrived, and competition is delivering flexible work spaces that are incredible.
WeWork is set to expand through to two additional floors (close to 1,000 new desks) in their current building right around the time of the opening of the 25,000 square foot Galvanize space in the Seaholm development. Capital Factory, the original downtown Austin co-working/incubator/accelerator concept, is a major player in the market, as well.
Those large concepts look impressive, but aren’t a fit for everyone looking for a quieter space to be productive. The result is that there are new co-working concepts leveraging smaller spaces in historic buildings.
As I walk into the space on the top floor of the Sampson Building on Congress Avenue, I am immediately struck by the quiet – audibly and visually. The lack of distraction, hectic bustle, and co-working “flair” sets a much different tone than what I’m used to seeing in the other downtown Austin concepts (wework and galvanize), and the atmosphere is just one of the ways Open-Source Co-Working is trying to set itself apart from its larger competitors.
I’m a sucker for a historic building. The patina and beauty that comes from being in a building like the Sampson Building is irreplaceable. Located in the heart of downtown Austin at 7th @ Congress Ave, the Sampson Building is a 19,000 square foot Austin Landmark completed in 1859 (touted as the oldest building on the Avenue). The structure is in the National Register of Historic Places and is also a Texas Landmark.
Celebrated architect Abner H. Cook designed the limestone building with Italianate styling, and the building has seen a plethora of industry uses over its significant history, such as dry goods sales, groceries, leather goods, and firearms, then the gradual morphing into office and banking / retail.
Open-Source is a 3,300 square-foot, 50 desk, locally-owned and operated concept geared specifically towards hardcore coders, small tech start-ups, and industry related folks who need a calm, quiet ecosystem outside of their home to create:
Workers who need to sit and concentrate for long periods of time, who want access to the serendipity that inevitably happens by being around like-minded, similarly-skilled / complimentarily-skilled people, as well as those who don’t necessarily vibe with the ultra-hip, mega-vivid atmospheres that are becoming the norm in the industry will be interested in Open-Source. The Open-Source space offers a large, open room with table seating, a conference area, and a community kitchen, along with several 130 square-foot private offices that can be closed off for solitude when necessary. (And, the offices don’t have glass walls.)
(above) Cleveland & Lott ad, one of the many offices in the Sampson building close to the turn of the century. Source: The Galveston Daily News, Vol. 50, No. 82, Ed. 1 Sunday, June 14, 1891, Newspaper, June 14, 1891
Luis Angulo, a local artist and former GM of Vuka, a south Austin event venue rental, co-working, and flex space, has been retained to work on the interior design of Open-Source to achieve a peaceful aesthetic conducive to concentration and quiet collaboration.
From a neighborhood and lifestyle perspective, co-working works very well to keep people working close to where they live, as there is a defined segment of downtown Austin condo and apartment dwellers who work in industries conducive to use of flex space. Several of our clients who consider a purchase at Brazos Place at 8th & Brazos identify the building’s close proximity to co-working giant Capital Factory as a major perk.
Beta Pricing and Open House
Interested in reserving your space before the grand opening? Check out their Open-Source’s Beta Program and get discounted pricing. Soft opening next week on November 9th, with the official opening the 23rd.
Additionally, Open-Source is hosting an open house for those wanting to see the space.
Interview with the Founders
I sat down with the founders of Open-Source Co-Working, Luke Filipos and Chris Sica, and they explained their vision, what sets them apart, and the future of the industry.
DAB: What made you decide to open up a co-working space?
OSC: We run our school during the evenings and when we moved into a new space we wanted to find a good use for it during the day. Co-working, specifically tech co-working, fits very well with the aims of our school. Any good co-working organization isn’t just about the space its members are in. It’s about the community of those members and we felt that there was a lot of opportunity for mutual growth and collaboration by having our students, faculty, and alumni working together in a shared space with co-workers who were already in the tech industry.
DAB: How will this space interact with your current business, ACA?
OSC: We plan to build Open-Source as a community focused on building great technology. Similar to what I said above, our students will gain a lot simply from being in and around that environment. We also hope that our co-working members will develop an interest in our students and be a source of mentorship and collaboration for them, and possibly even a source of finding new instructors as we grow.
DAB: What was the reason you chose this location?
OSC: As cliche as it sounds, I feel like it was kind of meant to be. We were looking for a new space and saw an ad for this one and almost as soon as we came to see it we felt it was the one. It’s centrally located and right in the heart of Austin’s tech scene. It’s a gorgeous historical building that really fits with our spirit of keeping things home grown and local whenever possible. The neighbors are friendly and it really affords us a lot of freedom and opportunity. The only downside we were worried about was parking, but we are currently building a partnership with Luxe to help fix that with their on-demand valet services.
DAB: What makes your co-working concept unique to other co-working concepts in Austin?
OSC: I’m certainly not going to say that we’re revolutionizing the co-working industry, because we really aren’t, but I do feel comfortable saying we’re creating a place that will leave its mark. Of course we have all the usuals like local beer and nitro cold brew coffee on tap, ridiculously fast internet, and community events all the time; these things are all pretty much must haves in co-working. The way our design really manifests itself, though, are in the little things that might not be quite as obvious.
Open-Source Co-Working is about getting things done, particularly in the realm of technology and what I mean specifically is that we’re designing this space with developers and designers in mind. We have volume-specific rooms, ranging from open conversation to absolute silence, because we know that developers like to focus and concentrate on their projects without distraction. We have lots of accessories and peripherals on hand, like iPads, power chargers, key boards and mice, just so that if members need to borrow one, for example to test out a new layout design on a mobile platform, they have one right here. Our membership application process is a little bit different, too. While everyone is certainly welcome, we do place a preference on those who are working directly in the tech development industry, like programmers and designers. Our hope is to build a community that has a network with all of the human capital necessary for people to build any technology they’re working on.
DAB: What’s your long-term vision?
OSC: Similar to above, we are hoping to build a community and network of programmers, designers, project leaders, and people otherwise working in the tech industry. Ideally this will be a centralized go-to network for people looking to enter and/or leverage the development industry to build new technology.
DAB: What do you think the key differences are between the co-working model and the office suite / Regus type model? In other words, what makes co-working different than simply leasing an office suite?
OSC: Again, I think it’s the community. Offices are great and very comfortable, but almost by definition they’re very insular and non-collaborative. The nice thing about co-working is you’ve got lots of people with a multitude of talents working on different projects in the same room or rooms and so it opens up lots of opportunities for collaboration.
DAB: Where do you see the future of co-working in Austin? Is it a trend that’s destined to fizzle out, or is this the beginning of a revolution in how people and companies work? Follow up: If you believe this is the future of office working in Austin, why do you think more and more work environments are evolving towards this model?
OSC: I think the idea of a “job” is evolving, specifically in that it is becoming easier every day for buyers and sellers to find each other. Graphic designers or programmers or even just people who can drive a car can advertise their services in a very cost effective way on a number of different channels, and people in need of those skills can find them easily too. Because the gap between people with those skills and the people willing to pay for them is closing, large companies have less leverage when employing someone. The lure of a steady paycheck and a secure job is no longer enough to keep people working at a company and because of this more and more people are turning to some form of freelance or contractual employment. These people need a place to work and Starbucks or the home office (see also: kitchen table) leave a lot to be desired when it comes to having the desirable parts of working for a company — reliable internet, a comfortable work space, and the strong support that comes with a like-minded community.
- Unlimited valet parking for $209/month courtesy of Luxe (this is about the same monthly price as renting a parking space at a garage, but way better).
- Parking garage next door for $3/half hour if you’re just running in and out
- Street parking