David McKee recently opened the Central Row Co-Working Space in Hartford, CT. Central Row provides co-working, private offices, and meeting room space for startups, entrepreneurs, independent professionals, and mobile corporate workers. Amenities include receptionist services, high-speed WiFi, mail services, and networking events.
Innovation Destination Hartford recently met with David and toured the co-working space.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: How did you develop the business concept for Central Row?
DAVID McKEE: While working in senior management roles in the insurance industry, I frequently sought serviced office space. I often needed to establish a footprint in new markets without incurring the significant overhead of opening a fully functioning office. These experiences left me frustrated by two main issues:
- The lack of flexibility by the office space provider
- The lack of opportunity for community engagement with other users of the space
The industry is changing with a shift from serviced offices to co-working communities, which offer much greater flexibility in how the members work and interact with each other. Co-working spaces are opening across the country to service all types of workers from entrepreneurs to small business owners, to freelancers, and even corporate teams.
It’s not just a phenomenon of the latest generation; we are seeing people from all ages preferring to work in an environment that is fun, flexible, and engaging. With multiple levels of membership available, individuals can find a configuration to suit their personal needs.
Working in a dynamic community with a range of people and businesses enhances an individual’s output. The experience is infinitely more rewarding than working in an isolated environment.
With the co-working model at Central Row, members have the flexibility and freedom of working independently—and they can engage with other professionals with different experiences and networks.
IDH: Why did you open the co-working space in downtown Hartford?
DM: When I had the opportunity to develop and open a modern co-working space in a classic brownstone office building in the heart of the commercial business district in Hartford I jumped at it.
The building at 6 Central Row is one of—if not the oldest—office buildings in Hartford. It was originally constructed in the 1850s and served in multiple different capacities over its lifetime. I'm pleased to participate in restoring the building for use as a modern concept that efficiently utilizes an existing structure and provides a much-needed service to the local community.
Hartford is at a good stage in its overall recovery, with an observable transition from a corporate office district to a community of smaller more nimble businesses and individual contributors.
I believe there’s an opportunity to create innovative “space as service” solutions that focus on hospitality, engagement, and flexibility. Central Row provides this right in the heart of the city, with access to an abundance of local amenities.
Additionally, the co-founders of Central Row can help provide access to a variety of small business resources such as investors, manufacturing, distribution, technology, and business operations expertise.
IDH: When did the co-working space open?
IDH: What do you enjoy most about working with entrepreneurs and innovators?
DM: With active entrepreneurs and innovators there is always an excitement in the air and a sense that “anything is possible.” I'm fascinated by their flexibility to pivot with ideas and to embrace multiple projects that can seem to simultaneously compete with and complement existing initiatives.
IDH: What is the best thing about the Greater Hartford region?
DM: There is a positive energy and momentum in the Greater Hartford region right now. And there’s significant investment being made in the city for both commercial and residential development.
Greater Hartford is home to multiple universities with a high-quality pool of graduates looking to start businesses or work for innovative and nimble organizations. Their expectations are different than previous generations about what “going to work” means and they require “space as a service” as an available option.
As investment continues to be made in the capital city, there are encouraging signs of growth and a willingness of the next generation of workers to stay in Hartford rather than seek opportunities in larger cities.
The energy from Hartford is reaching the surrounding towns. I see a a noticeable increase in the number of families from the suburbs who come to the city center to socialize and engage in the entertainment.