Serendipity Labs, the operator of workplaces featuring coworking, private offices, event facilities, meeting rooms and other spaces, is intent on expanding to between 200 and 300 locations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., chairman and CEO John Arenas told the Business Journal.
“Those are relatively straightforward markets for us,” he said. “For us, the U.S. is such a large economy and there’s plenty of opportunity. We see growing in secondary markets throughout the U.S.”
The company is headquartered in Rye where, in addition to having a staff of about 30 corporate employees, it operates one of its walk-in workplace facilities. It recently added the 20,000-square-foot location in White Plains to its portfolio.
“We’re also nearby in Fairfield County and in Bergen County in New Jersey, so our network of suburban locations is growing and White Plains was a natural spot for us to land,” Arenas said.
The company has secured a location at 55 W. Post Road in Westport, Connecticut and is preparing for that build-out. They’ll be occupying about half of the three-story building.
“We started with a location in Stamford, Connecticut, about three years ago and we expanded it. It’s at 700 Canal St.,” Arenas said.
The new White Plains location is at 44 S. Broadway, a 21-story building dating from 1976 which originally was occupied by IBM. The space being used by Serendipity Labs was essentially gutted and opened up to permit installation of a wide staircase between two floors. The modern industrial design incorporates a number of environmental sustainability features, including LED lights with sensors to turn them off when people have left the various rooms, 100% recyclable carpeting, low volatile organic compound paint and special air filters. The company has been inviting real estate agents to take a tour and also directly showing the space to prospects. About 200 to 250 people are expected to be working or attending events at the space on any given day once the operation is in high gear.
“About one-third of the space is dedicated to things other than offices, which is a different type of design than most coworking operators offer,” Arenas said. They include four meeting rooms, event spaces and a kitchen/café area with large windows fronting on South Broadway.
Arenas said that when companies or individuals sign up for memberships they have access to the Serendipity Labs facilities in any location.
“Our prices are set to the market and generally an agreement is about a year long,” Arenas said. “We have done agreements as long as two years. Usually the flexibility component is the most valuable aspect and once someone gets into three or four years that need for flexibility may not be as prominent and, therefore, they may be better off with a traditional lease.”
Arenas said they offer several types of memberships, including those for dedicated workspace and drop-in coworking.
“Memberships can be for an individual who signs a contract much like a gym membership, maybe a year for themselves, or for a team of people that work together,” he said, “We have a social membership, which is to become part of the club, to have access to the club during business hours and also use our social app to book meeting rooms or a desk when you need it.”
Typical of the introductory offers being made for the White Plains space are a resident membership ,which includes a full-time dedicated desk or office with 24-hour access starting at $540 a month, 10 weekday coworking visits per month plus other benefits starting at $299 per month and a single coworking visit on a weekday each month plus other benefits starting at $49 per month.
“With any industry you have to look at what the value proposition is and the value proposition for landlords is to have dedicated space for a long term,” Arenas said. “When you sign a lease for a 10-year period at a certain price very often during the occupancy it’s the wrong amount of space.”
Arenas, the son of an urban planner, said he started out almost 30 years ago as a civil engineer and worked in commercial real estate. He said he realized there had been a disconnect between the way people were working and the long-term leasing structure for office space.
“In 1992, I opened my first shared workplace and then formed a larger company in 1996 which was later acquired by Regus, a multinational company and the largest workplace provider. I helped run that company and started a software services technology company. I’ve come at it over a long period of time. It didn’t just occur to me on the bus one day,” Arenas said.