Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

The Collective

Dateline: 8:37 pm July 7, 2008 Filed under:

I have seen the future, and it is collective.

I speak of the Collective, a development in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that was mentioned in a recent Economist article called The New Oases. The article was part of a larger special section about Nomads, or “knowledge workers” who aren’t tied to a location-specific office.

The Collective provides an answer to this segment. Developed by Bob Dykstra,
the Collective is part executive office, part health club, with guitar lessons, a climbing wall and coffee shop thrown in for good measure. I visited last month as part of an assignment for an upcoming case study for ULI.

The existing building is a former health club, and Mr. Dykstra has created a prototype of approximately 40,000 square feet. Members pay an annual and monthly membership. WiFi access is additional, as are lockable desks or private offices, which can be rented by the hour, day or month. Guitar lessons, fitness classes and computer courses are pay as you go. One of the real advantages of the Collective is the networking opportunities.

The target market is young “knowledge workers” and baby boomers who have flexible hours or are recently or semi-retired. That encompasses anyone who does or can work from home, either with a home office or a central office that they do not need to commute to daily. Thus, large companies need not lease vast amounts of regional office space – rather, their employees can use a Collective.

Collectives can be in suburban or urban locations – they can be amenities in a mixed-use town center or a transit-oriented development. As long as they are near population centers who use them, they can reduce vehicle miles traveled and provide a place to work and work out.

Maybe places like the Collective will change the way we live and work, or maybe they are simply a real estate market reaction to the change that has already occurred.

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