After spending the past few months getting the hang of coworking in my small town, I was intrigued to check out what coworking is like in a larger facility in a large city. What I discovered in visiting CoLab Orlando is that the important difference in size isn’t in the physical facility. It’s in the community created within it.
CoLab Orlando is located in the historic Angebilt building in downtown Orlando, Fla. Originally occupying part of the sixth floor when it opened, CoLab expanded last year to include half of the eighth floor as well by taking over space previously occupied by a local university business incubator that had lost its funding. CoLab is now in the process of expanding again, by adding space on the building’s ninth floor in the near future.
Two distinctly different types of membership are offered at CoLab Orlando. First there are more traditional coworking membership arrangements, where members pay to have access for a certain amount of time during the month to CoLab’s common work area, conference rooms and business equipment. These members also get the use of CoLab’s address for their business. Prices for these memberships start at $50 per month for four visits, and go up to $199 for a full-time membership.
The second type of membership at CoLab involves full-time dedicated suite rentals. Prices for these memberships depends on the size and type of suite included in them (corner suites with more windows cost extra, for instance). Dedicated suite prices start at $375 per month for a 10ft x 14ft suite and go to $1500 per month for a 500 sq. ft. suite.
All CoLab members get access to the facility’s high-speed Internet service, printer/fax/ copier/scanner, conference rooms and coffee facilities. CoLab also hosts one or two free events per month for its members, along with a “Free Friday” coworking event for non-members.
The coworking common area at CoLab is definitely underutilized. It was virtually deserted on the Monday afternoon that I visited, although I was told a few members use it on a regular basis. This is likely because CoLab’s suites are so affordable that they are packed to the rafters with small businesses. If you have someone to share a suite with you can have dedicated space for around the same cost as using the common area full-time.
Not unexpectedly, most of the companies occupying suite space at CoLab Orlando seem to be tech companies. I visited with developers at Envy Labs and with Internet advertising specialists Enjoy Taste. The suites I toured were all occupied by multiple people. Despite the full-time suite rentals, CoLab’s population shifts on a daily basis. Many suite occupants said they work from home some days and come to the office when they need to collaborate with others or meet with clients.
The prevalent decor aesthetic in the facility’s suites seems to be Ikea furniture and bright color. Unlike in many office rentals, personalizing suite spaces through the use of paint and decor is encouraged. The results are far-from-usual office spaces with lots of evident personality. For instance, when I visited the suite of Envy Labs, I was treated to their collection of handmade robots.
Overall, CoLab’s suites — and the people in them — give an impression of being bright, welcoming and fun. The feeling of positive energy in CoLab was palpable, and co-founder John Todero stressed, “Energy is what sells the place.” Doors of many of the occupied suites were open as I walked around, inviting contact with other residents. Many of the resident companies, I was told, work with each other on projects.
Because so many of the residents aren’t solo coworkers, but are instead small start-up companies, CoLab is almost more of a business incubator than a coworking space. Whatever you want to call it, the energy and enthusiasm within its walls is contagious.
Does the idea of an incubator-style suite appeal to you more than traditional office space might?
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