Yet another coworking space is opening in downtown Madison — this one part of a massive nationwide chain.
Novel Coworking held a grand opening for its new Madison location at 345 West Washington Ave. last Thursday. The two-story hub of office spaces, shared working zones and office suites marks the 31st location for the six-year-old business headquartered in Chicago.
The first floor of the space features long, whitewashed hallways with room after room of small, naturally lit offices. Illustrated maps of the U.S. and of the Madison isthmus decorate the walls, along with inspirational blurbs. For example: “Entrepreneur: A person who risks their money for freedom, rather than exchanging their freedom for money.”
The hallways link up to an open, industrial-chic working zone with desks, couches and a kitchen that serves unlimited coffee, tea and beer. On a wall near the entrance is a framed art fixture featuring a few dozen bike wheels.
“It’s a little nod to the city,” said Novel Coworking national sales director Rhonda Fleming. “I hear that bicycles rule the city in Madison.”
A floor above are suites, also owned and operated by Novel, each with individual private kitchenettes, conference rooms and working spaces. The company calls them “smart suites,” since each one has soundsystems and entry keypads that integrate with Alexa, Amazon’s AI assistant technology.
In many respects, such as with its amenity-rich environment and flexible working spaces that range in size and affordability — Novel is similar to the many other coworking spaces that already exist in downtown, like 100state, Horizon, Brix and Industrious.
What makes Novel different, its leaders say, is that the company has actually bought the entire five-story, 74,000 square-foot structure on West Washington Avenue, a building that also includes UnityPoint Health Clinic and a number of other tenants.
“The ownership part of it is huge. There’s no middle man,” said Jaime Berg, the one-woman team running the Madison location. “If somebody needs more indoor bike space, we have the freedom to do that. If we want to build the upstairs into a terrace, we can do that.”
Buying up property is the Novel Coworking way, according to Fleming. The approach is what sets it apart from other national chains, including WeWork and Industrious, she said.
“They’ll build out a floor, and it’s kind of a fixed inventory,” she said. “Our approach allows us to customize things not just for the one person or two person shop, but also for the enterprise company … where they need 200 people.”
Fleming said that each location can indeed host companies of all sizes. She noted that the Phoenix location recently hosted dozens of employees for the well-known food delivery service Doordash.
The Novel leadership team also champions its affordability and flexibility of the space. Memberships for Novel start at $129 per month, and are on a month-by-month basis. Office suites are leased on a year-to-year basis.
Berg said that Novel already has four members signed up for the space, and has seventeen pending agreements.