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Miami co-working spaces are open despite coronavirus — but it’s not business as usual

Venture X

While many companies are shutting offices and telling staff to work from home, local co-working spaces are still open.

Co-working facilities run by Venture X, WeWork, CIC, The Lab, Pipeline and Yo Space in Miami are among those that remain open. Co-working facilities are considered essential, said Jason Anderson, president of the West Palm Beach-based Venture X, because they receive commercial mail for users.

In most cases, members pay for 24/7 access, and many still need to collect mail, access conference lines and hold video chats. But most have limited services and access by non-members, have instituted heightened precautions. While some are staffing locations and urging social distancing, others are providing remote support.

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According to a 2018 study, Miami is home to the most co-working space in America as a share of total commercial real estate. A January 2019 study on flexible space by commercial real estate firm JLL found it comprised 4.3% of the Miami office market, a total of 1,648,942 square feet. And according to a 2019 third-quarter report by Blanca Real Estate, co-working firms had the highest percentage of any office type, with 22.3% of total space leased.

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All co-working spaces offer a variety of membership packages, from mail collection and access to common spaces to private offices, in some cases starting as low as $100 per month.

The financial troubled national operator WeWork has eight locations; all are currently open. “We have a robust global emergency preparedness plan in place in the event any member or employee has contracted the coronavirus,” a spokesperson wrote via email. “In certain circumstances, depending on the severity of the incident, this plan could involve shutting down a building or floor for an extended period of time.”

To try to prevent issues, locations are being sanitized throughout the day, with special attention to high-touch points including door handles, elevator buttons, and counter tops, according to the spokesperson. Sanitizing wipes are offered throughout each location to allow members to wipe internal services, including phone booths.

CIC Miami, near Miami’s Hospital District, started implementing precautions in February, said director Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, enhancing sanitizing procedures and limiting (and then canceling) meetings.

The space “is closed for normal business, with very limited staff on site. We’ve directed all our clients that they should not come in unless they meet the county’s definition of an ‘essential business.’ In our case, this primarily includes companies conducting scientific research in our laboratories, which is especially relevant since several clients are working on key responses to COVID-19.“ All programming is now virtual.

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Wynwood’s Lab Ventures, which has a popular meeting space, has closed to outside events. “Members and staff who are sick are not allowed to work from the space, and we ask all members to maintain the recommended space (6 feet) between each other,” said CEO Tigre Wenrich. The front desk has limited hours and is staffed with a single person, he said.

The 130 members are largely working from home now, he said, but “all have expressed their desire to return as soon as conditions permit. ... the longer this continues, the more at risk we are.”

Pipeline’s four South Florida offices also remain open in a limited capacity.

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