Dec 8, 2021 - Business

Philadelphia coworking spaces face uneven road to recovery

Members work at Kismet at the Manayunk location. Photo courtesy of Christopher Plant
Members work at Kismet at the Manayunk location. Photo courtesy of Christopher Plant

As hybrid work becomes more common, there's been increased excitement about the potential rise of coworking spaces.

  • But that hasn't exactly played out in Philadelphia so far.

State of play: Although more commercial names like WeWork tout big gains in customers and bookings, smaller coworking spaces in Philly aren't saying the same.

  • Kismet Cowork, with locations in Manayunk and Chestnut Hill, has about half the number of members compared to its pre-pandemic years.
  • Pipeline Philly in Center City reports about 60% of the memberships it had in 2019.

Flashback: Like most other industries, the coworking community took a hit during the pandemic. 76 Forward closed its flagship Rittenhouse location earlier this year, after WeWork closed one of its spots at 1430 Walnut St. in Sept. 2020.

  • Kismet was forced to close a third location last December because of the pandemic.
  • And Indy Hall moved entirely remote last summer.

Yes, but: Recovery is happening. Pipeline Philly's founder, Tayyib Smith, told Axios he's seen more tours and inquiries this month compared to the rest of the year.

  • Kismet ramped up their podcast network and studio, Radio Kismet, to spark more engagement and support members' businesses.

Meanwhile, WeWork reported a $802 million net loss in its first earnings since going public in October. It's an improvement compared to the $941 million loss this time last year.

  • During the pandemic, the company launched two new programs to accommodate clients' desire for more flexibility, and its bookings are growing.
  • Bookings for the OnDemand program in Philly rose by an average rate of 43% month over month from December 2020 to October 2021.
  • Its All Access program saw a 600% increase in users in Philly in October compared to January.

What they're saying: "We're surviving, we're not thriving," Smith said of Pipeline Philly.

  • He's worried about the oversaturation of the market and an uneven playing field for small businesses.

Kismet owner Christopher Plant remains optimistic.

  • "There are people who come to us with no intention of going back to a regular office anymore and find they benefit from having a place outside of their home to get work done," Plant said.
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