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This might sound a little confused – after all this issue’s Spotlight feature is all about coworking – but when we read that, ‘Origin is not a coworking office’, we knew we should not only take a look – but feature it alongside the best of the UK’s coworking facilities.
Incognito (Simon Millington & Howard Powsney)
Hunters Contracts North
Havwoods, CTD Architectural Tiles, Milliken, Forbo
Carl Hansen, Muuto, Senator, Mobili, Quadrifoglio, ORN
Egger, Formica, Polyrey, Corian
Workspace D&B, Optima & Planet Partitioning, Bridgewater Laminates & Manchester Joinery, NuLife and Natural Flooring Solutions, Contrac Lighting
The reason for this is that it’s not just coworking (in it’s truest sense) that’s helping to create a workplace revolution right now. Flex-space is what it’s all about – and that, as we’re about to discover, can come in a number of guises. After all, what happens when your duckling transforms into a unicorn and traditional coworking facilities simply don’t fit the model any longer? Is there an alternative that doesn’t result in long leases and soulless, empty floorspace? Well, there is now.
We’re in Manchester’s ever-changing business district (Spring Gardens to be precise), where we meet with Incognito’s Howard Powsney, who is more than happy to give us a tour of this exciting new initiative. ‘The building is owned by a company called Investream and the original intention was to simply turn it around and to see what we could do with it as an office block,’ Howard tells us as we admire the classical Mancunian architecture that is synonymous with Spring Gardens and this part of the city. ‘It’s always struggled as a building because there are several cores to it and everything is really convoluted. To get to one side of the space you had to go to the other side first…it was really awkward.
‘It’s actually two buildings formed together. The first was built in 1850 – and was then joined together with a building from around the corner, on Fountain Street. So that has created three cores and you have a number of large load-bearing walls throughout. So, we looked at it and realised that we had to do something a bit different with it.
‘What Simon (Millington, founder of Incognito) sold to them was the idea of a space that was somewhere beyond coworking. We’re already seeing loads of interest from businesses that feel they have outgrown WeWork or outgrown other coworking spaces and are now looking for something else – something in between that start-up environment and having their own space.
‘This is very much plug-and-play – absolutely everything is ready for businesses to come in and start. There is a communal pantry, there is a business lounge, meeting rooms – and there’s no additional money involved with any of that. It’s all part of the service charge. The suites are a really decent size – you have four suites per floor, which perfectly suit 15-20 people.
‘Although the floors are divided into four, businesses can come here and take an entire floor if they want to. ‘
Walking inside Origin, we can immediately see that the bright, bold design we often associate with coworking spaces is replaced with more sophisticated, muted tones and finishes. ‘Previously, people would head straight up the stairs and there was a tiny little reception desk to one side. The original intention was to have a ‘proper’ café on the ground floor suite, but we realised it was probably best if we didn’t manage this ourselves and so there is still potential to break through here in the future if needs be – there’s a lot of flexibility. Rather than replace the reception desk, we decided to put in a concierge-style greeting point, which works really well.
‘We didn’t want people to go straight up the stairs, so we’ve deliberately sent people around the stairs and through to the core of the space – to the pantry and the lounge. It’s got a bit of a moody 1930s feel to it. The lounge certainly has that feel of cigar smoking, boutique space, although we didn’t want it to feel too much like a member’s club – we didn’t want it to feel elitist. We’ve had to be quite clever with how we’ve divided everything because of the fire doors, so we’ve used panelling and curtains and put in hidden doors to mask that. The artwork was also important here – it was all sourced to tie in with our scheme.
‘All the tenants here have access to the business lounge – there’s absolutely no exclusivity, and there are no hidden charges for using the space. It’s very much part of the offering.
‘We’ve had a few meetings ourselves in here – and it’s a really nice space to work in. There is also a great boardroom off to the side and we’ve ensured there is a real sense of quality throughout, from the timber finishes and flooring, through to the furniture selection, the artwork and the cast iron radiators. That flows through the entire building to the floors above – every floor has that consistent quality and same feel.’
Howard tells us that, when the team first looked at the space, plenty of work was needed to update the services. ‘It was pretty bad,’ he admits. ‘We had to rip out the wet systems and install radiators throughout. The power and data is now fed through the skirtings – but we did find some amazing, original parquet flooring throughout, which gives each of the suites a slightly different, unique look.
‘We had to protect the three cores, so we’ve wrapped panelling around it. It was pretty tricky, but I think it not only hides a lot of those services but also looks pretty good itself.
‘We are currently about to start work on a new staircase, which will take tenants to the basement, where there will be a gym and a cycle store.’
Origin has been developed for businesses that want to have complete control of their workplace – and also enjoy all the benefits of being part of a buzzing business community. This is a place for the tenants to call home, but with the added benefit of having access to a host of hospitality-style services and facilities.
The buzzing business lounge offers ‘Originals’ (we like that!) a great place to meet, greet and socialise with their clients and also amongst themselves and other like-minded people. It boasts two enclosed meeting rooms, fully equipped with the latest technologies for formal occasions, as well as a range of collaborative spaces and individual work settings.
Following Incognito’s transformational refurbishment, Origin now boasts over 20 exclusive workspaces, of up to 1,500 sq ft, spread across six floors. High spec fixtures and fittings, as well as the very latest workplace technologies complement the stylish interior, which takes its inspiration from the roaring thirties. As Howard mentioned a little earlier, suites can be joined together to create whole floors of 5,600 sq ft. Each of the suites feature fantastic original touches on the walls and floors, contemporary teapoints and business lounge and large, revamped windows that allow natural light to flood in.
But we haven’t finished yet. With views across Manchester’s iconic skyline, the Origin roof garden is a special place to relax, unwind and enjoy a well-deserved drink. It’s a place for the Origin community to come together for coffee, lunch, collaboration, meetings and, we’re told, cocktails – although it’s a little early in the day for us to partake.
Every detail matters here – and they have clearly all been considered. From the concierge-style front desk, the plug and play connectivity, the addition of a business lounge on every floor, the cycle hub and the private roof garden, Origin provides a full range of high-quality amenities alongside events and initiatives that will help its tenants become a part of an exciting new business community for Manchester.
The team has achieved something special here, with what is essentially a difficult space spanning two separate buildings. If you are still in any doubt, as we said earlier, Origin is not a coworking office. It’s original.
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