What is a “Coworking Space” (as opposed to Co-working)? Well, its certainly not the same as an office. Rather, its a open space designed to encourage collaboration.  Which is a highly attractive proposition for entrepreneurs and independent contractors.  Indeed, the idea of ‘Community’ is a big selling point.
Now that GRAPE’s staff is starting to expand, finding an inexpensive co-working space has suddenly become an issue. Working on a laptop at a Biggby’s or Starbucks may suffice when working alone. Even Panera Bread can work for me at times. But not when I’m seeking to collaborate with someone else.  It was time for me to research the many local coworking spaces I had heard of.

The first Grand Rapids coworking space I ever heard of was Grid70 (when reading this Fast Company article). Grid70 became well known for popularizing corporate collaboration  between such diverse companies as Amway, Steelcase, Meijer, and Wolverine. And they retain collaboration space for use by other (large) companies as well.  They’re not however seeking commitments from individual entrepreneurs.

My first actual view of a coworking space occurred when I stepped into The Warehaus.  Situated in Holland, The Warehaus is a wooden-floor factory renovated to facilitate teamwork and collaboration. That is, tables and chairs are placed in an open space as is a screen-projection area (now used for TedX Macatawa showings).  And glass-walled offices look out into the main corridor. Fortunately for me, co-owner Seth Getz is keen on having GRAPE host its Holland events at the facility. And by the way, Seth Getz is a must-see guy if you’re a young entrepreneur in Holland.

However, living in north Grand Rapids, The Warehaus is a bit far for me. Many people told me about The Factory (above San Chez Bistro). I had heard they were expensive. But their plans are listed as being Light (2 days a week for $75), Basic (5 days for $150), or Resident (24/7 for $275).  Those prices are actually very competitive with other venues I’ve viewed. The Factory also features a ton of daily, weekly, and monthly group activities. Its also where the highly-popular Startup Weekend just occurred. So perhaps a visit is in order.

In Walker, a company named Karpata Instore Services hosts an impressive coworking space. The facility has a full kitchen, a board room, excellent lighting, and new furniture. And the space is quiet (at least when I was there). For those that don’t need collaboration as much as space, this facility should be at the top of  their list.

Another option is Start Garden.  Although the Start Garden ‘Club’ may not strictly be defined as a coworking space, their website seems to give that impression.  Since April 2012, Start Garden has become a renowned place among this city’s entrepreneurs. Apparently, they’ve also purchased space downtown to create a “clubhouse for entrepreneurs“.

The nonprofit LINC is quickly becoming a well-known entity within the city as well  Their coworking space Urban LINC  (pictures here) opened last year at the corner of Madison Avenue and Hall Street (the Madison Square Neighborhood). The space is a former library renovated at a cost of $1.7 million.

Casey DuBois from GRMakers gave me a tour of the historic 401 Hall Street building alongside US-131. Its a former Steelcase facility that truly has an abundance of space. As explained here, local software company Mutually Human is sponsoring a coworking machine shop there. But I came away with the impression that they were open to additional coworking ideas.

Finally, one of my favorite Grand Rapids coworking spaces- The Work Cottage at 654 Croswell – closed last year. In researching this article, I received the impression that the coworking market is getting far more competitive.

Getting a coworking space may prove to be just the ticket to save you from soul-deadening isolation.  Although at-home-workplaces allow you to pajama-lounge and raid the kitchen, they muddy the waters between home life and work. That can leave family life tension-filled and less than ideal.  So consider purchasing coworking space as a healthy option – and a benefit that extends beyond simply having office space.  By the way, let me know if there are any Grand Rapids coworking spaces I missed!