New Orleans is a place of innovators: Entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists and techies are drawn to the creative energy fostered by the city, and they contribute back to it in kind. While there are co-working spaces in New Orleans that can provide office space for such independent individuals, they only account for 0.1 percent of the commercial rental market, as opposed to one to five percent in other cities.
Enter The Shop, the first full-service co-working platform in New Orleans, housed in the top three floors of the Contemporary Arts Center in the Warehouse District. Not only does The Shop offer office space, desk space, and the use of printers and high-tech conference rooms, but the brand-new workspace can provide its members with extras typically not accessible to small business owners: health care, 401k plans, accounting services, storage space, a receptionist and more — as well as a stocked kitchen area that includes local beers and coffees on tap.
After hours, The Shop offers a different lecture or activity every night of the week, each of which is done in partnership with other New Orleans’ organizations — keeping the space alive even after the work day is done in a way that celebrates and explores the city’s unique culture and institutions.
It is able to offer all this to its members because of scale, explained Matt Schwartz, principal of Domain Companies, the site’s developer. With 40,000 square feet on three floors, there is enough work, meeting and socializing space to accommodate 400 members — and a membership of that size can support a workspace with the incredible array of amenities The Shop offers. “It’s an economic development tool because it takes everything out of the process of running a business” for entrepreneurs and small business people, allowing them to focus on their work, Schwartz said.
Perhaps best of all, members of The Shop come to work in a luxurious, stylish environment carved out of a historic structure. The Contemporary Arts Center has been based at 900 Camp St. since 1976, and helped lead the revitalization of the nascent Warehouse District from a shipping storage area to an arts neighborhood with sophisticated cultural offerings. Staff worked in the unrenovated former warehouse for over a decade, waiting until 1990 for the building to be fully modernized. Almost three decades later, the building was in need once again of major repair. Domain Companies entered into a long-term lease with the CAC for the building’s top three floors, which allowed the company to access state and federal historic tax credits to undertake a restoration of the entire building. “We had looked to [open The Shop] for two years in New Orleans and hadn’t found the right space. Not only is this the best space we could have done it in the entire city, but the circumstances surrounding the way this came together” were ideal, Schwartz said. “The CAC had a building that was in very bad shape and a drain on resources, and we were able to structure a deal.” The lease allowed for the CAC’s headquarters to be restored at no cost to the art organization, plus would bring them new monthly revenue; and Domain would be able to develop space in a building with an incredible location, gorgeous historic bones and inspiring views of the city’s downtown.
With partners Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (architect) and Palmisano (contractor), Domain restored the entire building, fixing the façade, replacing the roof, repairing all of the historic windows, installing new building mechanical systems, repairing historic wood floors and more. Custom furniture was created by AOS and used to outfit the space with intimate meeting areas and airy workspaces. Good Wood NOLA also provided custom finishes. Studio Interior Design curated décor and artwork, which fills The Shop and was carefully commissioned by local and national artists.
The CAC’s unique arrangement with Domain has allowed for an important historic structure to be restored, bolstered the CAC and brought to life The Shop, a new and exciting offering for New Orleans. What a match made in preservation heaven.
Image Gallery (click images to expand)
Photos by Liz Jurey