Novel Coworking is bullish on St. Petersburg.
The Chicago-based workspace provider officially opened its latest office, at 333 3rd Ave. N. in downtown St. Pete, on Thursday.
St. Petersburg is one of the most economically vibrant communities in the country, Bill Bennett, Novel’s founder and CEO, said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We exist because we have a passion for supporting businesses,” Bennett said. “More progress is coming out of the business community than pretty much everything else in society combined. It’s what’s creating our jobs. It’s what’s building our future. It’s what’s paying the taxes to run better schools and hire great municipal employees. It’s a force for good in the economy. The small and medium business sector aren’t the firms launching tax inversions and hiding overseas. They’re our neighbors and our friends and that’s what Novel Coworking is here to serve.”
Novel bought the five-story, 53,106-square-foot building in February. Synovus Bank, which previously owned the building, continues to operate a bank branch on the ground floor, and a few other companies that leased space previously remain on site.
Novel renovated the space to include 67 private offices, five office suites and flex workspaces for one to 100-person companies. On opening day, more than 40 percent of the space was occupied, said Kris Elliott, Novel’s chief operating officer.
The Covid-19 pandemic emerged shortly after the purchase of the St. Petersburg building. The pandemic prompted many companies to allow their employees to work from home, while also reconfiguring their office spaces to allow more distance between workers for safety.
Elliott sees a permanent shift away from bullpens and a “cattle-herding” environment in some coworking spaces. But the shared office industry is resilient, she said.
“I don’t think the word coworking is super sexy right now because there’s so many definitions around coworking. But if you come together and work smart our business is going to be just fine,” she said. “Three months ago, there was talk about the commercial office being dead. But the longer it goes, you start to realize people don’t love this work from home experiment. There will absolutely be a second place and it’s going to be something like this.”
She has found that Novel Coworking clients and their employees still want to be together, network and see each other.
“People hated being cooped up for nine months and they want to be together. The social aspect of who we are didn’t go away because of Covid. Our job was to make it safe,” Elliott said.
Because of Covid-19, Novel revamped the standard coworking space layout. A lounge space on the second floor now has private high-back chairs and tables. Each workstation is cleaned and sanitized between clients. There are single-serving snacks in the kitchen.
There are prominent markers in the elevators reminding passengers to socially distance and stay six feet apart. To keep elevators from being overcrowded, the company also encourages tenants to take the stairs by posting inspirational signs that remind them how many calories they are burning.
The stairwell initiative is part of an ongoing sustainability focus at Novel. The company encourages its tenants to walk or ride bikes to work, but it also has surface parking and spaces in a parking garage across the street from the St. Petersburg site for those who drive.
See the gallery below for a glimpse inside Novel Coworking’s St. Petersburg location.