5. Troy Evans - Coliving and Coworking - Commonspace
Guest: Troy Evans, Owner of Common Space LLC, Syracuse, New York
Tell us a little bit about you both professionally and personally.
Troy was trained as a computer engineer at Syracuse University, but shortly after graduation, morphed into corporate change-management work, but didn't love being in the “big corporate machine”. On the side, he started flipping houses and developing apartment buildings. Working a full-time job and pursuing real-estate on the side eventually burned him out and he decided to take a leave to decide where to focus his energies.
How did you end up at Syracuse CoWorks?
Troy started working from home a week after quitting. He found himself talking to his dog and trying to focus amidst the sounds of a crying newborn in the background. He knew he needed a better work enironment and more social interaction. Troy found a local group called 40 Below that had started a coworking space out of a government building called Syracuse Coworks. He describes it as not attractive, kind of like a cafeteria, but the people he met there were life-changing. Troy explains how through the twelve people he met there, he’s been able to network with around 200 people including the mayor. He learned quickly the value of having a coworking space, how it creates a network of connections and opportunity.
Tell us about your Commonspace project (floor plan, amenities, how you came up with this idea, why you decided to pursue the project, describe your future members - what do they want out of the experience?
Troy bought a building about a block away from the original Syrcause CoWorks. It's a 5-story, 30,000 square foot building. The second floor, 6,000 square feet, will house the coworking space. His dream was to make this building the go-to place for people in Syracuse like him. It occurred to him that the living piece would be a big component of that. Living in the city of Syracuse, compared to the surrounding suburbs, is very expensive. He wanted to give young entrepreneurs the chance to live affordably in a like-minded community.
The community living floors will have micro units, with kitchenettes, a small private bathroom, set up in a circle so each unit will have a huge window. Each unit will be 12 ft wide, and have a window that is 10 feet wide by 7 feet tall, so almost the entire wall is a window. Also, they will be in a circle with a shared commercial kitchen in the center with shared living space and laundry, so there’s a community-feel. It’s set up to encourage interaction with your neighbors.
Was zoning for live/work/retail an issue?
The city has been very cooperative. They were involved early in the project and mixed-use zoning is pretty common today. Coworking connections helped Troy find resources to help him work through challenges like meeting ADA-requirements.
The syracuse.com article mentioned “community managers” on each floor - what was the inspiration for that?
The community manager will act as a welcoming committee, in charge of introducing everyone on both floors (face to face introductions), hosting a weekly dinner for the entire community, and holding events to make sure the social aspect of the community is taken care of.
How do you think the community living and coworking space will interact?
They want it where there’s always a working space and a living space, it will be kind of a transient community with people coming and going month to month, with social, work, and networking aspects. Troy is hoping to build a community where community is frequently lacking.
Tell us about the demand for coworking and co-living in smaller markets like Syracuse?
In Syracuse there are 14,000 people who work from home in the area, but most of them don’t know what coworking is, so the plan is to use technology, an app, the website, lot’s of live features, a live interest feed to sell that part of coworking, everything that sells the space. Troy says “We made a really cool space, I’m not gonna lie, it’s awesome! We have reclaimed wood out of a barn in Iowa, glass walls… But that’s only 10% of it, the other 90% is the awesome people we have here and what you’re going to get out of it.”
What’s your long-term vision for the project?
If everything goes well, Troy is hoping to expand into Rochester, Buffalo, and possibly more cities after that building more coworking and coliving spaces.
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:
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