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NEW YORK CITY—Among the many changes wrought by the economic downturn has been a shift in the role of the office as a workspace. Aside from layoffs, there’s been a move by employers away from full-time, in-office employment. All of this has meant a rise not only in home-based businesses, but also in coworking facilities that provide office-like support for entrepreneurs without an office-like situation.

Among the city’s newest, and possibly largest, such facilities is the [email protected], recently opened by the Alliance for Downtown New York at Rudin Management’s 55 Broad St. The 4,000-square-foot space provides shared workspace for more than 30 people at a time, plus three private workrooms.

The [email protected] 55 offers WiFi, fax, printer and copier machines and conference rooms. People can also host a business meeting there, or a meet-up, networking event, workshop or class. The space is intended to provide an alternative to working out of a living room or coffee shop, and to facilitate connection and collaboration between businesspeople.

Elizabeth Berger, president of the Downtown Alliance, says it’s geared to “entrepreneurs, consultants, people thinking about starting a business, people whose businesses are bigger than their living rooms but smaller than an office and maybe will stay that way because of the way the Internet has changed the world of work, or people in between jobs or contemplating a change in jobs.” She describes it as “a real community facility, because Lower Manhattan is all about live-work.”

Berger says the idea for the [email protected] “probably has multiple parents, like all great ideas. The idea of a coworking facility is something we proposed in June in our Committee on Economic Revitalization’s final report.” That report noted that while financial services remains “a signature industry” for Downtown and is responsible for 29% of the jobs in Lower Manhattan, “only 14% of the 235 companies that have relocated here since 2005 were financial services,” she says. “There were a variety of creative industries, nonprofits—in other words, a real focus on innovation and new ways of working.”

At roughly the same time, Bloomberg administration announced the MediaNYC 2020 plan, a package of eight initiatives to diversify the city’s economy. Among the plan’s proposals was the creation of a media hive. “We thought there was the possibility for a marriage,” Berger says.

The city and the Downtown Alliance zeroed in on 55 Broad, a Financial District office tower that Rudin had made into a new-media hub with the New York Information Technology Center located there. The result, which was funded in part by a $100,000 grant from the New York City Economic Development Corp., was the [email protected], which opened this past fall. The EDC and the NYITC are sponsors; other co-sponsors of the initiative include Pace University and electronics mega-retailer J&R.

In keeping with its new media-oriented emphasis, the Hive provides up-to-the-minute updates on Twitter and has its own Facebook page. Following the theme of accommodating nontraditional work environments, the Hive offers a variety of membership options, from $25 to $500 per month. “We have private offices and open work space,” says Berger. “We have a variety of membership options from drop-ins to a limited number of days per month to evenings to off-peak to 24/7 access. It’s certainly a supported environment, although probably less intensely supported than an incubator.”

Although it’s located at 55 Broad and is being marketed to media entrepreneurs, Berger says the Hive’s appeal isn’t limited to information professionals. “We’ve had many applicants and many inquiries thus far, and we’re finding that the Hive is not about any one sector—it’s about a way of working and a way of thinking,” she says. “This is an experiment, and we want to see where it will go.”

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