Co-working in Norwood, MA?

I was recently in Norwood, Massachusetts, where the Norwood Record, its community newspaper, had a cover story on the number of open storefronts in downtown Norwood. I sent along the following idea, which was published by the Norwood Record on their letters to the editor page in the May 22, 2014 edition.

A thought: How about using some of the empty stores for co-working spaces?

The shift in the world of work is going from companies keeping people on staff (and in their offices) to consulting, freelancing, contingent, and contracting. Some reports are now that a third of all US workers fall into these categories…

…hence, all those people you see at coffee shops, libraries, etc. on their laptops, working from wherever they choose.

But, as humans we don’t like to be alone all that much (and working from home can be filled with distractions for many), so we’ve had the rise of co-working spaces around the world.

As you know, Norwood now has some of the fastest internet in the Commonwealth, thanks to Norwood Light.

This is great for residents and businesses, but I think there’s an opportunity here for you to draw people to the downtown area by having a co-working space in one of the empty stores.

The trick is that for freelancers, you can’t rent an office; they’re too expensive and, in this current economy, the work can be unpredictable, but the idea of coming to a space that has fiber internet speeds where you can work without having to buy a coffee or a meal is very, very appealing.

I live in Jamaica Plain, but honestly with the arrival of Norwood Light Broadband I’m tempted to move here because given most of the work I do, I’m online all day long. A slow internet connection is utterly frustrating and you realize how much faster you could get your work done with fiber optic speeds.

There are co-working spaces all around Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville now, but I don’t know of any is the Norwood area.

It wouldn’t take much to physically set it up: some tables and chairs is all you need (maybe Woodstuff could share some and get promotion from it!). People could also bring in their own if they like. Give the space a coat of paint and mellow lighting, and the fastest Norwood Light internet possible, and you’re all set. Best part is that when the store gets rented by someone, you can move the co-working space to another vacant spot (or it may be profitable enough that they can stay).

Ideally, it would be a space where people could rent by the month. You can also have a price for drop-in visits. That is the model most of the co-working spaces have.

My suggestion would be to do a little research in Norwood and surrounding towns to find out how much demand there might be. I’m fairly sure you would draw from some distance around the co-working space. The co-working spaces in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville are all quite busy, but surely there are freelancers in Norwood, Dedham, Canton, Needham, Sharon, Newton, etc. who are also faced with this conundrum. I bet you would even draw people out from Boston who want/need the speed.

A brief online survey about such an idea would get around quickly…people who are consulting, etc. tend to be pretty connected via social media, plus some outreach to local news outlets.

Bringing all these people into downtown Norwood means they’ll want breakfast, lunch, dinner, and will do some shopping while they’re here. The only difficulty might be parking, since a good percentage of them would want to park for the full work day, but perhaps there is a solution for that nearby.

Just wanted to offer up the idea…happy to discuss further if you’re interested!

Charlie