Recently a shopping mall realtor approached me about opening a coworking space in their closed gaming zone/internet cafe. I’d love to hear opinions about this, pros and cons. Before you completely ignore this post as coming from someone who is clearly not from the same coworking planet, here is why I’m even considering it:
(1) With respect to the fact that mall real estate goes for a premium: At least where I am, a lot of shopping malls are trying to build in community/space quality features that make going to the mall (which lets face it, most people in urban areas sometimes do) a more human experience: space-taking areas like open art galleries, free indoor playgrounds, exhibition space, gardens, etc. These spaces add value/traffic to the mall as a whole, making the rentable space more valuable. This means that the mall owner may be willing to partially fund a coworking space if it adds value to the mall as a whole.
(2) With regard to the importance of community and quality of the work environment: Sure, malls are horrific. But they’re also a reality. Wouldn’t creating coworking spaces in the horrific reality of a shopping mall make malls a little less horrific? To the extent you could contribute to the reinvention of malls as more human, community-focused spaces, wouldn’t it be a good thing to promote the development of a coworking space in a mall?
(3) With respect to the objection that it wouldn’t be sustainable; the kind of people drawn to coworking would not want to do it in a mall: The malls where I am right now have many fast food restaurants (McDonalds, KFC, etc.) with free bad wifi and people working away on their laptops or in business meetings, or higher end cafes where laptop workers aren’t as welcome and places to work aren’t comfortable or well suited for meaningful work or quality meetings. I would guess many of the people who work in the area or who are just there while their partners are shopping or their kids are at the movies would love a more human space to work. Yes, they’re not the people traditionally drawn to coworking, but is there room for something in between?
My big question I guess is whether there would be a way to do this that would create more than the equivalent of a hotel “business center” or an internet cafe? Would there value or demand for a community-focused workspace in a mall?
Clearly this couldn’t be an ideal community-focused and community-driven coworking space. But is there room for something between the ideal and the “business center” in a shopping mall (or airport or highway gas-station/restaurant off-ramp for that matter)? Something that would help build the sense of community and humanity in these largely community-less spaces? Could it bear the coworking name?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.