June 5, 2016 | By Breana Noble | The Detroit News
Just off a phone call, commercial interior designer Justin Morelock worked on a project at a table. Nearby, a tech entrepreneur developed what he hopes could be the next Spotify. A freelance photographer with a camera bag draped off her shoulder gathered her gear on the opposite side of the room.
Although they make their livings doing very different things, they all share office space. Bamboo Detroit is one of about 15 co-working centers in the city.
Co-working centers are where people from various businesses, nonprofits or organizations work in a shared space. Typically open in floor plan, co-working centers promote collaboration.
As real estate prices increase in Detroit, especially downtown, co-working is an option for entrepreneurs or small companies that desire to be in the city. Monthly membership rates around Detroit vary from $40 to $350.
“You can turn around and talk to a lawyer or an accountant,” said Amanda Lewan, co-founder of Bamboo Detroit. “There’s such a great community.”
Morelock, who is the owner of NXT Design, enjoys co-working for its social aspect and because it has the feeling of an office: “Bamboo Detroit is a community, and you’re not going insane from talking to yourself all day at home.”
He said he’s benefited from his co-workers’ knowledge. They have helped him learn to use software programs.
Bamboo Detroit opened in 2013 on Brush Street when four friends, including Lewan, went looking for a place in downtown Detroit to work.
“We found out there was a need for affordable space and inclusive community,” Lewan said. “I was really drawn to the creative environment in Detroit. I knew I would pay for that.”
Bamboo Detroit started with 10 members and now has more than 100 who share space. By the end of the year, Lewan said it hopes to open a second downtown space, offering more private offices and dedicated desks. The expansion is made possible by a Motor City Match grant, a program administered by the city of Detroit that was generated during a discussion of entrepreneurs at Bamboo Detroit when Jill Ford, the city’s head of innovation, visited.
Bamboo Detroit is named for a plant that takes a couple of years to grow. Its mission is to do the same with startup businesses, which is one of the reasons why it selected Morelock’s company to design the new space.
Lewan added that Bamboo Detroit is also looking into expanding to other cities as well.
Space is tight
Expansion is not limited to Bamboo Detroit. Katrina Turnbow acquired An Office in Detroit, a co-working center near Cass Park, in February. Although daily occupancy of the space varies between five and 20 people, she said co-working space is becoming tight in the city.
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