November 29th, 2010

An Inventory of Flex-Space in Boston


By Flex Space I mean a place where you can work with access to the internet, a moderately comfortable chair, and heat.

Let’s brainstorm. There’s the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Kendall, there’s the MassChallenge space in Fort Point, there’s WorkBar near South Station, and then there are the random coffee shops, public libraries, and the various rooms in your house which could all serve as Flex-Space. I’m also sure there are others I’m forgetting, I just know the three above mentioned spaces well so will comment on them herein.

First, the CIC. It’s fancy. They have snacks. There are secretaries. The whole space (a few floors) screams, “I’m modern! I’m Chic! If you work here, you can’t help but be successful!”  Oh, and there are miniature kiwi’s in the kitchen…

Overall, I like the CIC very much. They’re great with the balance between privacy and open space. The Venture Cafe is open, welcoming, and a great place to meet with friends or meet new friends.

The downside is the price. They say on the website to assume $700-1,000 per person per month. That’s a lot of cappuccinos at the local Starbucks. With this level of cost, the CIC is more suited for well funded start ups, or companies that are looking to be in the heart of the city for a short period of growth before hitting the (god forbid…) 128 belt.

WorkBar is a fun place that has seen consistent growth over the last few years. They’re currently working on a large new addition to their current space. The set up is fancy (they’re even getting new furniture!), the kitchen is a ‘clean up after yourself’ affair with a well stocked fridge and coffee/tea area.

I like the feel of WorkBar. Everyone’s doing something else, everyone is close to each other, and everyone is working hard. It feels a lot like the library at my University did. I’m sure, once you put in some time, you’ll get to know all the other folks that frequent WorkBar. The price is also fairly reasonable and extremely flexible. I won’t begin to list all the options here, just check it out if you’re interested. Rates start at $50 a month for 1 day a week.

The downside to WorkBar is the lack of privacy. There are a few ‘phone nooks’ but I find them to be rather dark with bad cell reception. You really don’t want to talk on your phone at your desk. People won’t glare, but you’ll feel like you’re in a library and it can be pretty awkward.

WorkBar is perfect for the independent consultant who isn’t on the phone all that much but needs somewhere with coffee, a quiet work environment, and the motivation other people working around you provides that just can’t be found in your bathrobe at home.

MassChallenge recently opened up their space to people who weren’t involved in their recently completed business plan competition. We were a member, so we’ve been here for the last three months.

The highlights to the space are three fold.

First, the view. We’re on the 14th floor of 1 Marina Park Drive, right next to the ICA. 360 degree views of the ocean, the airport, east Boston, the harbor, the financial district, you name it. Unless you work for a law firm, you don’t have a better view.

Second, the price. We pay $100 a month per person because we were finalists in the competition. Other start ups pay $150 per person per month, and service providers (non-start ups) pay $200 a person per month. It’s dirt cheap.

The last huge advantage to the space is… space. There’s lots of it. We have a cube that could fit 4 people for two of us. And we’ve got a window seat (caveat: it’s a grey day, and this was taken from my phone… better than a brick wall!).

The downside of the MassChallenge space is that everyone will be kicked out in August for their next group of contestants (the month to month lease makes this easier to deal with). The other downside is location. While I love the view, and Flour and Metro Cafe are enough for lunchtime options, it’s not the most convenient place. We’re lucky because we live in East Boston. Not just because it’s the best neighborhood in Boston, but because we live 1 T stop from Aquarium, which is a ten minute walk from the office. So 20 mins tops one way. But for other people, it can be a bit of a hike. It’s about a 10 minute walk from South Station (take the silverline to courthouse if it’s raining or snowing…). Parking is expensive. Enough said.

Let me know if I missed any spaces in Boston!  I’ll save you all from blabbering on about Starbucks and how comfortable my chair at home is… (this is the view from my bedroom in East Boston… Yes, I’m bragging.)

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Jesse Gossett

About Jesse Gossett

Jesse Gossett was born in the wilderness of Washington State and is currently the Director of Community Affairs at Emergent Energy Group. His efforts focus on developing new ways of helping clients, staying abreast of renewable energy policy and regulations, and overall project management. Emergent Energy Groups plans, designs, and facilitates the advancement of community focused energy and sustainability solutions. Our contribution helps public and private entities assess, optimize, and create on-site clean energy systems.Emergent Energy Group has recently won Business Week's 'Top 25 Under 25 Competition'.

  • Jesse

    There’s also got to be a better name than Flex-Space… sounds like the amount of room my brother, who’s 6’7″, needs as he walks down a hallway to avoid knocking over/bumping into things…

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  • Geoff Mamlet

    For your readers who are interested in being in Kendall Square, and are willing to forego some of the services offered by CIC in order to save money, I would suggest they consider the Cambridge Coworking Center (housed inside CIC), which offers many of the best amenities of CIC (fully stocked kitchens, Aeron chairs, killer Wifi, and the best AT&T reception in Boston, for example) at a price of $250 per person per month for 7×24 access.

    Geoff Mamlet
    Cambridge Innovation Center

  • Jesse

    Thanks for the tip, Geoff! That program sounds like a great way to balance out the full blown office space provided by the CIC.

  • Jesse

    I wonder if some of this co-working space is a function of the bad real estate market. I recently visited a friend on Green street (right behind Central Sq.) and the space felt like Dunder Mifflin except with higher cubicle walls, and every person was working for a different company.

    If you can’t rent it out to one big company, you might as well try to fill it with somebody…

  • Chris Williams

    Walt, this is sick. Do you have any tenants yet or did it just open up?

  • Chris Williams


    Not a bad deal! I’ve noticed Kendall is home to a lot of tech companies, have you noticed a swing towards any cleantech related orgs?