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Co-working space rises to the occasion

Brian Hartz

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One of the private offices at Rising Tide Innovation Center in St. Petersburg, which recently expanded to a third floor in the historic McCrory building on Central Avenue.

Rising Tide Innovation Center, a co-working space in downtown St. Petersburg, inked an agreement with its landlord to expand to a third floor in February 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic forced many workers out of offices and into their homes.

The timing certainly wasn’t ideal but the center’s leadership team had already put into place some innovative membership models that, in hindsight, seem prescient. It added new features to its virtual membership model, priced at $45 for month, for people who work at home but want a business address.

“We expanded it for people who aren’t coming to the office as frequently,” Rising Tide co-founder Leigh Fletcher said in an interview with the Catalyst. “But what we’ve found is that people are changing the way they work — their businesses have given up office space. So they might need office space to have a meeting once a week with their team, or maybe they don’t want to do a Zoom call with their dog and the cat and the kid, you know, all the other stuff going on in the house.”

In that same vein, Rising Tide created a household membership model to accommodate families who have multiple people working from home because of the pandemic. Priced at $99 per month, it allows members to alternate who works from home and who works at the co-working space.

“We are seeing a new group of members coming in who are using the space as a home office away from home,” Fletcher said. “They’re still working from home some, and I think that’s probably a trend that will continue as more businesses make final decisions about whether they’re reopening space or not. Companies figured out in the last year that people can work from home, but at the same time, people crave the social connection — they get tired of staring at their kitchen counters.”

Rising Tide is located in the historic McCrory building at 433 Central Ave. Its expansion cost about $250,000 and was overseen by Huffman General Contractor, a Pinellas Park company. Subcontractors and other suppliers for the project were also locally based — most from St. Pete and a couple from Sarasota.

Fletcher and the center’s leadership team were careful not to change too much of the facility’s historic character, believing its quirks and charm give it a competitive edge in the marketplace.

“This building has been around since 1902,” she said. “It’s been a hotel; it’s been all these different things. And I think that’s important. Being able to come in every day to a place where you get the texture and the richness of the history of the building, and all the brick … it’s a different vibe. It frees you up from conventional thinking, to be in this kind of space.”

Rising Tide has made other changes to adapt its business model to a post-pandemic world. It reduced capacity and spaced desks six feet apart. It’s requiring members to have their temperatures checked before entering the office, but it provides face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer free of charge if members don’t have their own.

“We have a Covid plan that we give to our members and they’ve been very respectful and courteous to each other,” Fletcher said. “At the beginning, there were a lot of questions, you know, ‘Was [co-working] going to be safe? How are you going to do it?’ We worked with our members to try and understand what would serve them best and what would create the greatest comfort level for them. And I’m one of those people that is very concerned about [Covid-19] because I’m high risk. So, I figure if it works for me, it will work for a lot of people.”

For those who would like to check out what the expanded Rising Tide has to offer, the center is holding an open house Wednesday, March 23, from 5 to 7 p.m.

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