The Uprise of Victoria’s Co-working Community

July 30, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield

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777 fort Street. Image Courtesy of Nevin Thompson.

From Antique Row to Entrepreneurial Row, Fort Street is dusting itself off, evolving and looking better than ever. Step aside doilies and teapots…

The Spacestation, Fort Tectoria, 838 Fort (opening soon, name TBD), and the Watershed are all co-working office spaces that have dotted Fort Street from Langley to Cook.

Office mashups like this were inspired by cities like Boulder, Austin and San Francisco. You can’t walk more than a few blocks in those tech hubs without coming across a unique co-working office environment with a cafe and a buzz of creativity. This same vibe has reached Victoria and is spreading quickly.

THE ENTREPRENEUR MOVEMENT

In 2012, VIATEC moved to Hillside and Douglas to try an experiment and opened Accelerate Tectoria. It provided flexible office space and entrepreneurial advice and took off like a rocket. So much so that, within months, VIATEC started shopping for a building it could buy to make a permanent home for the concept.

The Spacestation

The Spacestation

Shortly after, Peter Gustavson, CEO of EncoreFX opened Spacestation  (formerly “Spacebar”) in a building he already owned from his Custom House Currency Exchange days on lower Fort Street. About the same time, Owen Matthews of the Alacrity Foundation opened a shared office for several of his tech mentee companies at Fort and Vancouver. He saw the potential and quickly partnered to turn the old bottle depot around the corner into a 4,000ft² shared office known as “the Mini Tech Park” that houses companies like Pretio Interactive and Tutela Technologies. It’s also where the SpaceBus happens to live.

1124 Vancouver Street

1124 Vancouver Street. Image Courtesy of Photographer Sama Jim Canzian.

Thanks to Owen and his office turnaround partners Fraser McColl and Dan Robbins, VIATEC was able to find the right building to buy at 777 Fort Street and opened Fort Tectoria in September of 2014. Within a few months, all 18 offices and 88 available desks are taken while the main floor lounge is packed daily thanks to its free (very fast WiFI), comfortable desks, chairs, couches AND a cafe that serves up plenty of coffee and nutritious food to keep the visiting innovators and entrepreneurs fuelled.

Just down the block, 838 Fort Street is in the final stages of its renovations (once again courtesy of Matthews, McColl and Robbins) but the place is already filling up and there’s only 2,500ft² left of the 20,000ft² building! There are even companies moved in while construction continues like our Tectorian’s of the Week, Silkstart. Everyone is looking forward to the rooftop patio that is near completion and already planning events around it.

NOT READY TO GO STEADY

Startup and early stage companies in Victoria are finding it tough to commit to a 5 year lease in an office they will most likely grow out of. They could go from 2 employees to 10 or more in less than a year. Coworking spaces are allowing them to rent individual desks or private offices on a month to month basis to allow room for growth. The downtown locations make these spaces very appealing too with plenty of options for food, beer, coffee and shopping.

This trend moves past Fort Street…

DOWNTOWN CLUSTER

TheDock Victoria off Fan Tan Alley and The Watershed, also on Fort Street, both opened recently while Digital Desks is expected to open in the Parkside Hotel this September and “The Nest” will be opening close to Murchies on Government in the near future.

WOW! With all this space for work, we hope Tectorians will still take time off for vacations!

A SOLID FOUNDATION

Local tech and business entrepreneurs are changing the city as we know it, for the better. With the availability of this new flexible co-working community, it’s easier than ever to turn great ideas into successful companies and grow our #1 industry even stronger.


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