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Spark expands to accommodate demand for office space

The Baltimore Sun

Co-working spaces are (supposedly) all the rage, with their open-area desks, community kitchens and lounges stocked with games.

The Cordish Cos. took this trend to heart when it built out Spark, a workspace in Power Plant Live in downtown Baltimore geared toward startups that have outgrown their nest at an incubator and entrepreneurs who work for themselves. Spark opened in January with 19 private offices and 42 co-working desks.

Five months later, Spark has had to speed expansion plans to accommodate demand for offices, while leases for co-working desks lag behind office leases.

"I feel like they like the theory of co-working, but also like their private space," said Beth Workman, Spark's director of operations. "So after they've had lunch, socialized, played foosball in the lounge, they can retreat to their office and get work done."

Of the 42 desks, 12 are dedicated to specific companies. Another 18 desks are used by members who pay a monthly rate to use space, but don't have their own dedicated workspace.

Spark offers flexible lease terms to attract companies that are young, growing rapidly and don't want to get locked into a traditional multiyear lease because they cannot predict how much space they will need years from now. In addition to monthly memberships, people can rent desks by the day.

Shared conference rooms, printers, a reception desk and mailboxes help Spark keep rent low. Private offices cost $575 to $2,025 a month; a co-working desk is $225 a month. Community amenities such as a gourmet kitchen, lounge and regular in-office happy hours are intended to appeal to millennial workers.

In its early days, Workman said, Spark is finding that while tenants are interested in these perks and the sense of community an open workspace offers, they want their own space, too.

In response, Spark has added 19 offices, for a total of 41. Thirteen new offices, each with partially frosted glass walls for both privacy and openness, were built in what was supposed to be an event space. Spark added six more offices a couple of floors up.

In the future, the organization might convert some of its co-working desk space to offices, but Workman said it is too soon to make that change. Spark is still ramping up its marketing and outreach to potential tenants.

A first-floor lobby is next on Spark's construction agenda. The space will include a more formal welcome area for guests, an event area and possibly a gym.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sarahgantz

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