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Popularity of shared work spaces propels expansion of Spark Baltimore

Popularity of shared work spaces propels expansion of Spark Baltimore
People gather to discuss business in the shared workspace Spark Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Co-working spaces have proliferated in recent years in and around Baltimore, with about two dozen opening their doors to entrepreneurs and young companies that aren’t ready for their own offices or not enthusiastic about working in isolation.

Among those benefiting from the desire for collaborative work environments is Spark Baltimore, which just opened a sixth floor in its downtown Baltimore office building in the Power Plant Live complex. The Cordish Companies-owned space that opened in 2016 now has 140 businesses and nearly 400 people working there.

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Like other shared spaces in the region, Spark rents a desk for a day or a month as well as offering dedicated offices, sharing meeting spaces and amenities. The shared environment promotes another kind of sharing — that of ideas.

“We’re a catalyst for entrepreneurship,” said Shervonne Cherry, Spark’s director of community and partnerships. “Some are start-ups, some just got their series A funding, but they know things can change on the dime. They come here for support and resources and flexibility.”

Some companies, including the software firm Fearless, have remained in Spark even though the company has grown to around 80 employees who work in several different areas such as government contracting and health care.

Delali Dzirasa, founder and president of Fearless, said there is a thriving tech sector in the city and his perch at Spark keeps him connected to it from inside the building (though Spark also helps connect tenants to resources outside as well).

Dzirasa said he likes striking up conversations with others in the building, who might give him ideas on how to solve a problem or improve a product.

“We manage SBA.gov,” he said of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website. “When we need users to test out an improvement, they’re all right here. These people use the site already.”

Likewise, Mauricio Valazquez de Leon, who heads the publishing company duopress, said the shared workspace gives him motivation. After years of working from his home, where he was able to take care of his children, he was ready to stop working alone.

“When I was ready for an office, the idea of going to an office park was not appealing,” he said. “Having a community of people to talk to makes me more productive.”

Others come and go, Cherry said. They come use a desk or sofa for a day for $15 or rent a dedicated desk for $375 a month. They get access to a receptionist, a shared kitchen, meeting space and events. They can bring pets and sometimes children.

Others rent a private office for $595 a month for a single professional or up to $2,595 for five people. There are also suites from 900 square feet to 8,000 square feet for rent by the foot under more traditional leases by the year or longer.

The newest floor, the first, opened in March and is already half committed to new tenants and expanded ones.

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