Office space at Assemble

CHICAGO—Shared office spaces have become quite popular in the CBDs of many cities, especially top-tier real estate markets like New York and San Francisco, but the founders of Assemble, the newest such space in Chicago, believe a demand exists in neighborhoods outside the downtowns.

“When we did our due diligence, we saw a lot of shared office space in River North,” Phil Domenico, the managing member of Assemble, tells GlobeSt.com. But many of the freelancers, contract workers, financial advisors, and other workers for small companies they spoke to needed workspaces closer to home. In many coffee shops across the city, but especially in the Gold Coast, “there are people grinding away, working uncomfortably.”

Therefore, Domenico, a project executive with Chicago-based Synergy Construction Group, and the other Assemble partners decided to locate their new business at 1165 N. Clark St. in the Gold Coast and Old Town neighborhoods, the first such facility in the area. As reported in GlobeSt.com, it will open August 1, and they also plan to open a similar space somewhere in the West Loop.

“You will have a copier that works all the time, high-speed Internet that works all the time,” he says. Furthermore, occupying a portion of a shared office space gives even the smallest company a professional appearance. “You don’t have to say, ‘meet me at Starbucks.’”

But the partners have also set their sights beyond Chicago. Once they establish the Chicago locations, Domenico says, “we’ll move into other cities, Denver probably being next,” but Atlanta, Miami and other smaller markets also remain possibilities. “The top-tier markets are very well-covered by the big players in the shared office space.”

Domenico sees Assemble as providing a step-up from co-working spaces, also known as incubators, such as Chicago’s 1871. Although these spaces provide a valuable service for start-ups, users tend to work in close quarters in open spaces. “Once you’ve gained a little traction and hired a few employees, the best environment we’ve seen is a shared office.”

And even though multinational corporations like Regus have dominated this sector for years, Domenico says, they typically provide just a basic office environment. “That formula doesn’t work. You need to be able to look at more than a computer screen or drywall.” But, in addition to all of the services Assemble will provide, tenants will also have private, glass-walled offices that will provide quiet and privacy, but also allow natural light to flow in.

Domenico points to NeueHouse, a work collective in New York that provides well-designed office spaces and common areas for groups of up to ten people, as a model. “They, along with us, have gotten the formula right.”

Assemble’s 13,000-square-foot shared space will provide office tenants with free parking, event space, free Wi-Fi, printing and copying, conference rooms, networking events, happy hours for employees, and shared business resources such as access to investment capital, accounting, credit card processing, and other services.

“It’s going to be a success,” Domenico says. “We’ve already had tremendous interest.” Although the Assemble partners have not made any final decisions on the next steps, they want to establish a national brand and intend to move relatively quickly. In fact, on Assemble’s opening day in Old Town, “we will start calling our investors back and say, ‘we are 70% to 80% occupied on day one.’”