Mayor Libby Schaaf Inaugurates New Co-Working Space In Heart Of Oakland
The opening ceremony included a tour of the property and culminated in a ribbon-cutting. Twenty-three companies, ranging from culinary schools to energy startups to career websites, call the space home.
The co-working phenomenon has gained popularity with builders as a good way to help early stage startups deal with office needs without the trouble and uncertainty of taking on long-term and expensive leases. The Port Workspaces at the mixed-use Kaiser Center Mall, which opened last week, hopes to offer these services to companies seeking to work out of Oakland.
The Port Workspaces is being presented as a uniquely Oakland project. Visitors are greeted by a large mural designed by local artist Sean Griffin (seen here speaking to Mayor Schaaf). He told the mayor the art style was meant to capture the energy of the city and fill the property with a strong Oakland flavor.
The Swig Co’s Deborah Boyer (left, with Joel Pool, Karen Wertman and Mayor Schaaf) was instrumental in bringing the project to life, according to Port Workspaces founder and CEO Joel Pool. Despite the popular misconception that real estate projects move slowly, she engaged Port and “worked openly, creatively and made swift decisions.” He thanked a company of Swig’s stature for taking "a leap with us” in unlocking stranded spaces, thereby improving affordability and accessibility.
The project re-envisioned a retail space (complete with shopping mall escalators) into a modern office complex able to host 300 workstations. Deborah concluded her remarks by calling this "a quintessential adaptive reuse story since it turned irrelevant buildings into meaningful spaces." (Want to hear more about mixed-use development in Oakland? Join us June 28!)
Projects like The Port Workspaces are increasingly central to Mayor Schaaf’s strategy to bring startups to Oakland. San Francisco’s sister city has traditionally lagged its wealthier neighbor in economic development, but surging costs in S.F. offer Oakland an opening to attract fleeing companies. The mayor has actively engaged the startup community by creating a special liaison to quickly communicate concerns.
She said the space was a celebration of “scrappy Oakland pride” and advanced “mission-driven disruption.” Mayor Schaaf was made an honorary member of The Port Workspaces.
Port Workspaces COO Karen Wertman (far right) told Bisnow the portfolio of companies hosted at the Port was well-balanced and would be resilient in the face of a tech slowdown. The co-working space ensures that multiple industries are well-represented to avoid undue exposure to any one sector, she said.