“Can this real estate developer make coworking stick in Chestnut Hill?”
Photos by Brian James Photo Studio
(Photo by Brian James)
If you’ve ever been referred to as a “coworking purist,” odds are you’re going to shudder when you read this next sentence: a Philly real estate developer just opened up a 6,000-square-foot coworking space in Northwest Philly called KISMET.
Christopher Plant, a Chestnut Hill resident who’s not a stranger to the local tech scene, launched the coworking spot on March 17 featuring an eclectic cohort of 11 companies/members: from marketing agencies and engineering companies to a college professor and a writer.
A self-proclaimed “fan of Indy Hall and Benjamin’s Desk,” Plant had done some leases before in that building — 12 West Willow Grove, a few minutes’ walk away from the Wyndmoor Station — as part of his work with Elfant Wissahickon Realtors.
“There was an old self-storage space that was not a best use and so I convinced the landlord to let me make a run at coworking,” said Plant in an email. “With my work in commercial real estate with a focus in Northwest Philadelphia, I knew there was a need for the type of space that I wanted to build.”
Full disclosure: We haven’t yet made the trek out to visit the space but — from the pictures — you could describe KISMET’s decoration as WeWork-y, what with its high ceilings, exposed airducts, polished surfaces and lounge-esque lighting. As usual, there’s a kitchen space and conference rooms, along with the ever-more-present indoor bike rack.
As for pricing, a floating desk at the Chestnut Hill space will run you about $350 monthly. Private offices start at $800.
For a quick look at the space, here’s a flashy “hyperlapse walkthrough” vid put together by Villanova, Pa.-based production company Creative Outfit.
Mind you, former attempts at posting up a coworking space in Northwest Philadelphia have not fared well in the past. For example, in 2013, an attempt to band together coworking moms and dads in the suburbs called Coworking for Parents called it quits before settling in on a space, citing difficulties finding a proper venue that could work financially. Manayunk’s Transfer Station shuttered in 2014 .
Can KISMET make its model stick? Is Northwest Philly’s quarry of mobile workers sufficiently large to keep those fancy lights on? Plant says yes (because of course he does). And the slate of customers he has already signed up is a good sign.
“I believe that there will be a great market for a more intimate coworking model on the fringes of traditional business districts and quasi-suburban commercial districts,” said Plant. “That is where we see ourselves. We also want to have a robust calendar of programming and content that helps foster a deep and committed connection with our tenants.”
At first glance, it sure seems that KISMET has all the makings of being another corporate play on the bubbling coworking biz. Plant will be the first to point out that initial impression.
“Many will consider my move into coworking as another example of a developer keeping on-trend, but I think I come to this naturally,” said Plant. “I have always been a connector and this is all about that.”
Maybe Wayne Kimmel was right. It is “all about staying in the mix.”