Contemporary Arts Center to open new co-working space in 2017

Emily Madero, CEO of the Idea Village, a hub for New Orleans business startups for 16 years, has collected a stack of renderings from developers who have sought to turn the organization’s entrepreneurial village concept into actual brick and mortar.

The plans were interesting food for thought over the years, but none were ever “quite the right fit,” Madero said.

That is set to change this fall.

The Domain Cos. and Idea Village are partnering with the Contemporary Arts Center to develop a 40,000-square-foot shared workspace on the third and fourth floors of the CAC’s Warehouse District building. The space will house the Idea Village offices and is envisioned as the beating heart of a Camp Street “innovation corridor” that will host the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week starting next March.

Matt Schwartz, a principal for The Domain Cos., the developer behind South Market District in the Central Business District, said the company has been watching the co-working trend emerge in cities such as New York and was looking to bring a similar development to New Orleans. The Contemporary Arts Center floors finally provided enough contiguous space to make the concept workable, and the Idea Village quickly emerged as the ideal anchor and partner to develop programming for future tenants, Schwartz said.

In a statement, Contemporary Arts Center CEO Neil Barclay noted the center has been a home for local artists since opening in 1976. Barclay hopes the new workspace “will become a model for the creative reuse of facilities like ours in communities throughout the country.”

Madero added the location puts young talent on the front steps of some of the city’s largest cultural institutions, including the Contemporary Arts Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the National World War II Museum.

“It’s an opportunity to create a physical hub that will really thrive 365 days a year at the intersection of creativity and innovation,” Madero said.

Long-term home

The workspace, named The Shop, will have space for up 400 people and include shared desks, furnished offices, conference rooms and a large public common area. Members will get access to typical office amenities such as shared printers and scanners, high-speed Wi-Fi, videoconferencing equipment and kitchen space as well as access to affordable benefits, including health insurance and 401(k) plans.

The Idea Village will anchor 1,600 square feet of the new space, moving its offices from inside the IP Building in the Central Business District. The Domain Cos. will also relocate its 11 local employees to new offices in The Shop.

Schwartz said the Contemporary Arts Center board formally approved the plan last week, and the group is targeting an Oct. 1 start for construction. If all goes to plan, tenants will be able to start moving in next summer, he said.

The Shop joins a growing list of co-working spaces in New Orleans. LaunchPad, opened in 2009, was among the first to introduce the concept locally, renting out a cluster of shared and individual desks in the IP Building. It now spans multiple floors and has a sister location in Charleston, S.C.
Several other co-working concepts have popped up across the city in recent years, including Propeller on Washington Avenue, The Warehouse in Bywater, The Blue House located a block off redeveloped O.C. Haley Boulevard, and Beta in the CBD.
Schwartz said there is still plenty of room in New Orleans for an “attractive, well-designed, high energy” space for young companies.

The Shop aims to emulate a model companies such as WeWork Cos. and Cowork|rs have used to build successful brands — design a cool space in a trendy urban location, pack it with resources and interesting events, and let the money roll in.

Schwartz said the Contemporary Arts Center space already has alluring aesthetic, complete with exposed brick and heavy timber beams. Giant windows and skylights let in natural light from all angles.

“It’s even better than starting from scratch,” Schwartz said.

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple will design the renovation, which will blend historic and contemporary elements. The architecture firm also worked with The Domain Cos. to develop the trendy Ace Hotel, which opened this year in a former Carondelet Street furniture store a few blocks away.

Schwartz, whose company has been at the center of downtown revitalization, developing luxury condos, shops and restaurants as part of the $450 million South Market District, added the location is a perfect fit for shared workspace.

“This is the kind of thing people are looking for,” he said. “People want to be able to live downtown, to walk out of their CBD or Warehouse District apartment and go to a great place to work, walk to a great place nearby for lunch and have nightlife close by.”

Startup corridor

For Madero, The Shop also represents an opportunity to introduce a lasting home for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, the fast-growing festival that showcases the city’s startups between Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest each spring.

The event, which began in 2009, has bounced among multiple locations, including Gallier Hall and, most recently, Fulton Street. It will move to the Contemporary Arts Center and Camp Street in March 2017. Talks and events will be spread out among space at the center and tents in a nearby parking lot.

“It’s so much different than having a venue that you plug into once a year,” Madero said.

Madero and Schwartz expect more incubators and startups to gravitate to the area.

Greater New Orleans Inc., a regional economic development organization, has agreed to rent space in The Shop to share with tech startups looking for temporary office space as they relocate to New Orleans. The new $6 million Greater New Orleans Foundation headquarters on Lee Circle will include flexible space for nonprofits to meet and attend workshops.

The old Ives office building at 1009 Camp Street also has potential to house new office space. A company controlled by Phyllis Taylor bought the building in 2013, but no redevelopment plans have been formally announced.

The goal is to build a district that channels both the innate, lasting creativity that has long powered New Orleans and the new energy around technology and entrepreneurship, she said.

“It’s going to be a really inspiring place,” Madero said.

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