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A guide to coworking (community, coffee, and free wifi) in DC

Work and play at Canvas Co/work

Affinity Lab's conference room

Social innovators at Punchrock

Getting stuff done at one of two East of the River coworking venues

UberOffices' Dupont space

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It’s easy to compare D.C.’s coworking scene, like its tech scene, to the likes of San Francisco or New York City, rendering the nation’s capital somehow behind on a trend that’s been sweeping the nation.
But founders of local coworking spaces say that — despite being few in number compared to other cities — the demand for such spaces here is only growing, especially in the District’s suburbs, and the resulting spaces are uniquely D.C.
Coworking provides physical office-like space to small businesses whose employees would otherwise work from home or coffee shops. Some spaces focus on a business niche, like tech startups or nonprofits, while others open the doors to anyone that can stoke the creative fires that keep these places popular.
Wifi access and desk space are common amenities, and many offer conference rooms for rent, couches for brainstorming and evening events or speaker sessions.
D.C.’s coworking scene is ever evolving, welcoming new spaces even as three have closed in the past year. District I/O near Dupont Circle was the third space to close its doors in 2012, following the shuttering of DAGpad near Metro Center and Geekeasy on Florida Avenue (which fell short of rent and instead plans to use space in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library starting this summer).
Kallie Seniff, community manager of Canvas Co/work, a space that opened near Dupont Circle last year, says that some spaces fail because they lack the thought it takes to build a working community. It also takes planning to concoct the right mix of available square footage and the tenants to pay for it.
While coworking provides a place for business relationships to happen organically, they are distinct from a similar trend called business incubators. Incubators like the new 1776 work closely with their occupants to mentor and grow the new businesses, often focusing on a specific business sector or industry. 1776, for example, does offer coworking space, but only to members selected for the incubator program, says Evan Burfield, cofounder of the space.
With the help of yoga balls as seating options and salsa nights as social outlets, Laurin Hodge of Affinity Lab says members get more done in less time when surrounded by innovative, like-minded workers.
“What you’re really picking is your coworkers,” Hodge says. “Most people don’t have (that) option. You have to come in and hear the conversations and pick your place.”
We’ve aggregated here a list of coworking spaces in the heart of D.C. — one that’s sure to grow.
Prices and membership levels vary by location. Check out each space's website to learn more and to learn how to join.
Affinity Lab
920 U Street
U Street Corridor
Started 13 years ago in Adams Morgan, Affinity Lab is arguably the oldest continually operating coworking space in the District. Lab manager Laurin Hodge says other spaces existed then, but none of them still exist today.
Over the years, Hodge says the space largely has maintained its original intent of being a place for “people who wanted to work with their friends.” Even if they’re not friends at first, Hodge says, they stay to work with “smart people you’d want to get a beer with — or subcontract a grant with.”
Hodge describes the amenities as everything you need to run your office, plus community.
The Lab sits at about 70 members right now, many of them “virtual” members who aren’t in the office each day. The space works to accommodate a diversity of businesses without focusing on one niche, which Hodge says has contributed to its staying power amid shifting business trends.
Canvas Co/work
1203 19th St. NW
3rd Floor
Near Dupont Circle
When Canvas Co/work opened its doors a year ago, people weren’t used to this idea of “coworking.” Yet what might be distractions to some — background music, ping-pong tables and an Apple TV — are creativity inducers to the 40 some members who call the space “the office.”
Other amenities include whiteboards for brainstorming, snacks and coffee (provided by a coffee startup in the space), Herman Miller chairs for comfort and dishwashers in the kitchen. Canvas also hosts events like Startup Jackpot and houses several startup businesses.
Canvas originally focused on attracting web designers and developers to the space, since those were the fields of its founding business partners. But Seniff says the space now welcomes anyone who’s a good fit to its “motley crew” of creative individuals.
Canvas recently expanded to 6,000 square feet, double its original size, to accommodate additional members.
The Hive DC
2027 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
& The Hive 2.0
1231-B Good Hope Rd. SE
The Hive DC started in the fall of 2010 to not only provide a creative workspace to the Anacostia community but also to aid in its revitalization through arts, culture and small business development.
The Arch Development Corporation that backs the Hive also runs art galleries and a digital print lab, with much of the neighborhood’s art displayed in the workspaces. The Hive was the result of a community meeting in which residents said they had to leave the area to find coworking or office spaces, says Nikki Peele, managing director of The Hive DC and The Hive 2.0.
“Unfortunately — and fortunately — we underestimated the interest in the space,” says Peele. The Hive 2.0, a second 5,000-square-foot space, was added last fall in response to high demand.
The first space measures 2,000 square feet, and both include round-the-clock access to the fully furnished offices as well as free technical assistance and workshops.
The Hives house businesses as diverse as government contractors and nonprofits while fostering a “creative economy” for graphic designers and artists. Surrounded by a theater, coffee shops and a soon-to-launch art space, the Hives are the only coworking spaces east of the Anacostia River, Peele says.
1800 Wyoming Ave NW
Adams Morgan
Punchrock launched its small space in Adams Morgan in the fall of 2012 with an eye for serving the businesses that are trying to change society. “Social innovators” is the niche market for this coworking space, and they’re not talking about businesses that use social media.
“Usually we define social entrepreneurs as those that are using their business to tackle societal issues,” says manager and founder of the space Roxie Alsruhe.
Alsruhe says the space found a natural home in D.C., where many people land as NGOs, politicians or business owners to try to make a difference.
“We felt there wasn’t a space where all these players were meeting regularly,” Alsruhe says. “We wanted to fill that need and grow the field.”
Punchrock (a word that symbolizes challenging the status quo) hosts about 15 members so far and, often, a few office dogs. Asruhe describes the space as looking “like a hostel” more than an office, with glass tables and markers for brainstorming in lieu of marker boards.
Punchrock’s members include a micro-investor that brings accelerator programs to emerging markets, a developer whose mission is to share information quickly during disasters and a new ridesharing service that promotes community.
1200 18th Street NW
Suite 700
Dupont Circle
When UberOffices opens its Dupont Circle location in September, the building will offer six times the square footage of any existing coworking space in the District. The Dupont Circle location will be the company’s third in the D.C. region, following Arlington and Tysons Corner locations, says Raymond Rahbar, one of the founders.
Though known for housing tech-minded startups, Rahbar says UberOffice’s locations are open to “really anybody with an entrepreneurial outlook.”
Rahbar says a few tenants already have signed up to locate at the 38,000-square-foot Dupont Circle space since it was announced in April. He says the team will fill the space with a focus on providing offices to small companies with fewer than a dozen employees. About 80 percent of the space will be carved out for such uses, while the remainder will be used for open desks for coworking individuals or groups.
UberOffices began creating coworking spaces because real estate had been one of the “biggest pains” of starting businesses for its founders, Rahbar says.
“It was tough to be in a good space at a reasonable price with people that were like-minded. So we’re trying to combine everything in one,” Rahbar says.
2217 14th Street NW
U Street Corridor
After selling out of office space within a couple months of opening, D.C.’s newest coworking space said on its Facebook page last month, “Don’t worry — we just built out a few more.”
The space launched in February with a focus on going above and beyond coworking— linking its members to not only wifi and coffee but also to potential resources for crowdfunding. A firm working to make crowdfunding a legal reality for U.S. businesses cofounded the space and is working toward new federal regulations that would allow it (though that process has gone slower than they hoped), says Patrick Menasco, co-founder and CEO of WorkDistrict.
Until then, Menasco says they’re focusing on the space, which has room for about 70 members and is nearly half full. Formerly host to Living Social events, the “edgy” 2,800-square-foot building features graffiti art throughout, courtesy of some of D.C.’s best artists in the medium.
Menasco says WorkDistrict is also considering a foray into hosting “code courses.” They are piloting an academy called CodeDistrict that would bring industry expertise to new businesses that need it.

Read more articles by Whitney Pipkin.

Whitney Pipkin is a freelance journalist who covers food, agriculture, and the environment and lives in Alexandria, Va. She writes about food, etc. at thinkabouteat.com.
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