Serendipity Labs Opens First DC-Area Co-Working Space In Bethesda, Plans To Open 4 More
The latest co-working space to hit the DC market aims to attract an older and more professional tenant base than the existing brands.
NY-based Serendipity Labs launched its sixth location in Bethesda on Jan. 12 and it's already 50% occupied. While co-working is often associated with 20-somethings in T-shirts and jeans, you're more likely to see a 35-year-old in a suit and tie entering the new location, at Carr Properties' 4500 East West Highway.
"We’ve had to work hard to distinguish ourselves from the creative class of co-working," Serendipity Labs CEO John Arenas said. "We have a mix of members in their mid-30s to early 50s, they work for companies and have responsibilities at their companies. It's not about the party, it's not about meeting people to find a friend ... Our man bun count was pretty close to zero."
To attract this type of worker, Arenas said he offers top-of-the-line security infrastructure to meet banking standards and HIPAA compliance, so established corporations can trust the network enough to let their workers do business in it.
Arenas, who grew up in Bethesda, told us he is in talks to open four additional DC-area locations: one in NoVa, another in suburban Maryland and two in the District.
"The business climate in Bethesda and the District seems to have gotten a renewed enthusiasm and we’re feeling it," Arenas said. "We have a lot of interest and we’re glad to see that."
The first location opened in 2013 in Rye, NY, and it has slowly grown to six in the four years since. Arenas has benefited from investors like furniture manufacturer SteelCase, which now owns one-third of the company and provides its furniture. Arenas has also developed a franchise-based model where third-party operators will provide capital and use the Serendipity Labs brand. With this strategy, he is planning to reach 20 to 25 locations in the next couple of years.
Another way Serendipity Labs attracts corporate tenants is the conference rooms. The Bethesda location has five, including one with a 15-seat board meeting-style table. This one is shared with the building's other tenants but Serendipity Labs furnished and manages it. Members can also access the building's fitness center and rooftop deck.
Rather than competing with the likes of WeWork and MakeOffices, Arenas said he is focused on attracting corporate tenants in office suites of 5k SF or less. He sees Serendipity Labs as a fusion between office and hospitality, with many of its employees coming from hospitality backgrounds, and a company culture centered around providing a quality experience for its members. He said he expects many of the franchisees to be hotel operators.
This hospitality focus was another major reason Arenas wanted to have a presence in Bethesda, with Marriott announcing plans last week to move its corporate HQ to a Bernstein-owned site in downtown Bethesda.
Serendipity Labs offices, which start at $1k a month, range from one to 10 people, like the corner office above. One 34-person company is in talks to join, sales director Jillian Brown said, and would split up among multiple offices. Serendipity Labs also offers drop-in plans for members to come in and use its shared spaces, but the access is not unlimited. To use it five days a month members pay $199, and $299 for 10 days a month.
Multiple commercial real estate firms already use the Bethesda space. Capital Retail Group, a firm with four brokers, was one of its first tenants. Robert Tack said he came over from MakeOffices and is happy with his decision.
"This is a more advanced building, it has a nicer build-out and more amenities," Tack said.
Like typical co-working spaces, Serendipity Labs has shared break rooms with coffee and fruit-infused water on tap, plus a variety of drinks and snacks available.
It also has what it calls an ideation studio, a large room with shared seating where it plans to host events.