COWORK-AROUND: Office-sharing gets a La Jolla foothold

Two coworking offices have set up shop in The Village, attracting tenants unhappy with either the traditional commercial real-estate model, or with trying to conduct business at home or in coffee shops.Coworking refers to a common office — including conference rooms, staff and equipment — shared by independent contractors. The rent includes utilities, wi-fi and telephone calls answered in their own companies’ names.

“A lot of people in this day and age are getting out of long-term leases and just paying for space they need at the time,” said Krista Hoggard of Regus, a UK-based coworking company that opened a floor at 888 Prospect St. in 2014.

“So, instead of having a 20,000-square-foot floor that they have to furnish and wire and pay for the utilities, they’ll take two or three offices for five or six employees and it’s a lot more cost-effective. And it’s flexible. They can downsize or upsize.”

Higher-end coworking offices, like Regus’ in La Jolla, facilitate impressing clients who are not necessarily informed that the tremendous success telegraphed by all the beautiful views and furnishings — and all the support staff — can be had by anyone with $1,500-$1,700 per month. (Full disclosure: this reporter was recently misled by an interview subject’s office at Regus, but now knows better.)

According to Hoggard, one of her clients recently told her that the view alone justified increasing his day rate. “He said his clients are sitting there watching whales,” she said. “They can’t get enough of it.”

Lawyers, CPAs and real-estate agents gravitate to the corporate vibe of Regus, where private offices are rented — as well as desks in shared offices — starting at $229 per month. (Regus also rents pods in a shared lounge for as little as $99 a month.)

Closer to commercial leasing’s entry level, coworking centers like Co-mmunity — which opened on the second floor of 7580 Fay Ave. just under a year ago — are preferable to coffee shops or working at home for the millennials who view office-sharing as a natural extension of Uber or dockless bikes.

“I can’t focus at home and coffee shops get old,” said Co-mmunity member Andrea Grim, a Pacific Beach resident who uses the space to study for her LSATs. “And when I think about how much I was paying for coffee, I might as well get a cool space like this and not have to pay for expensive coffee drinks and food all the time.”

Co-mmunity — which rents out space starting at $275 a month — offers a large open central area conducive to collaboration. Its members include a solar-energy company, a sports nutrition manufacturer and a pop-cultural history website.

According to Co-mmunity manager Sara Hertweck, “it’s a very collaborative space” where entrepreneurs and freelancers seek advice and water-cooler conversation with others closer to the starting line of their career paths, or who are changing paths, without the hassle of office politics.

“We have a lot of people who used to work virtually and moved here just so they can be around people,” Hertweck said.

Invented in 2005 by San Francisco software engineer Brad Neuberg, coworking has approximately doubled its number of offices across the U.S. every year since. Regus alone now has 18 San Diego locations, including Spaces, a lower-rent environment, in University City, where coworking giant WeWork also has a building.

“As I see it, it’s a generational change,” said Mike Slattery, who sells commercial La Jolla real estate for Cushman & Wakefield. “The old model was executive office suites — leasing out a whole floor to small invidiual tenants. But the large office developers don’t have the time to lease out individual space like that anymore. And there are all kinds of startup businesses now that landlords don’t build space out to accommodate. So coworking really fills the void.”

Hoggard recalls a global conference conducted by Regus’ CEO back in 2008.

“He was talking about coworking,” she said. “Back then, nobody knew what that was. Everybody had a big office with these big oak executive desks that were hard to move.

“And I was like, ‘What is he talking about? That’s never going to happen.’”