Who we are and what we do at Platform Coworking Chicago is fundamentally based on the simple concept of giving people a thoughtfully designed space where they can do work and be productive. From the beginning, we approached this as pure work space. Of course, everyone is welcome, but facilitating a start-up atmosphere where people scout talent, or look for funding, was never our goal. It started as a means to make work more productive, and that remains our mission today.
Our founder, Jeff Park, was looking to be less solitary while he working for the family business, whose operations resided almost entirely overseas. He found some office space not far from our present coworking location in Ravenswood and put out a Craig’s List ad. The space filled within a few weeks, and his happenstance idea grew into a workspace cooperative, and eventually matured into Platform Coworking in its present form.
“There’s been a huge increase in coworking spaces that specifically target the tech crowd. Some curate their membership rolls, which I would argue makes them coworking spaces in name only. Who ultimately benefits when someone decides who gets to join and who doesn’t?” asks Park. “There aren’t many coworking spaces that target established professionals, especially for those who prefer to stay in their neighborhood outside the loop. The evolution of work space has lagged behind the huge changes in how people work. More people can work anywhere, but where do they go? This is still a real need.”
The Origins Of Platform Coworking
It all started thanks to a terrible Chicago winter. In 2006, Park worked for his family’s vitamin manufacturing company. His mother, the other business partner, increasingly spent more time in Korea overseeing sales strategies. Park found that weeks would go by where he’d have zero communication with anyone other than vendors on the phone. It was a solitary existence—no one to have lunch with or with whom to spend a few moments at the proverbial water cooler.
“It originally started with sharing a large office with several random people,” says Park. “I figured it would be an easier way to financially cover a nicer, larger office, with the added social benefit of meeting new office mates.”
Park procured his office space in Ravenswood and immediately found others who shared his predicament. “The first was a programmer from Michigan and then some other random people,” says Park. “More than once, the guy from Michigan brought up the idea of coworking, renting unused space to transient workers. I didn’t really give it much thought at the time as I was fine with just meeting interesting people with whom we could share office space.
“That was the beginning. We had a standing ad on Craig’s List and there was no shortage of people interested in our space,” continues Park. “At that point I realized how much unmet demand there really was. There simply weren’t options.”
By 2009, Park had outgrown the space. “We were getting more inquiries than we had desks available, so we moved to the corner of Montrose and Ravenswood, the Delta Building,” says Park. “That began the Ravenswood Coworking Group in earnest and it continued until 2012 when I decided to expand again to capitalize on all the effort I was investing. Instead of running what was essentially a non-profit workspace, I turned it into a proper business.”
A New Home For Platform Coworking Chicago: Ravenswood
“I put much more thought into the actual physical space design,” says Park. “Prior to that, out interior design consisted of free but dated furniture from previous tenants, so moving was an opportunity for me to actually implement observations I had made on proper space utilization, how people actually use the space, what they need day to day, privacy concerns, etc.
“These are things many companies struggle with and a lot of time went into studying how professionally-designed workspaces are laid out,” he continues. “I broke the space up into different zones, added private phone booths, came up with color palettes, directed the use of sunlight, and such. It was an experiment and outlet for all the anecdotal human behavior I had watched over the preceding years.”
Time For A New Location: Wicker Park
The second Platform Coworking location opened in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood in the spring of 2014. “For me, it’s about finding a place to work with other people in your neighborhood and this wasn’t available, and largely still isn’t available, because it’s been hijacked by the tech and start up scene,” says Park. “As far as Wicker Park, it’s close to public transportation, there are tons of great restaurants, nightlife and coffee shops, and people actually live there. It’s a different demographic and we fit right in.
“We wanted to build work space for people in the neighborhood: ‘road warriors’ a.k.a. people who never had an office space as they spent most of their time traveling; independent consultants; copy writers and writers in general who can work from anywhere but prefer not to do so from home; people who write code for companies in Chicago and elsewhere. What we provide works for all of them and many more.
“Also, what’s the point of leaving your neighborhood? If you live in one zip code and can find a workspace less than a half hour away by any form of transportation, that’s a no brainer. Either through circumstance, personal choice, or whatever, when you go into business yourself, why would you willingly go back to The Loop where you have to commute?”
More To Come: Where Next?
You can definitely expect more Platform Coworking locations to open up in the Chicago area. Park stays busy studying neighborhoods and all their intricacies so his next coworking location can meet the needs of the local populace. No two Chicago neighborhoods are alike and the same can be said of the professionals working in them.
Wicker Park, Logan Square, possibly areas south of Roosevelt–there are many viable choices. Keep an eye here, on our blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Maybe we’ll be coworking close to you before you know it. We welcome suggestions and insights into why we should open up in your neighborhood. Let us know what you think by posting on our social networks and/or contacting us through our website.