Shared Workspaces Help Somerville Get Things Done

workbar unionWorking—at the bar—at Workbar in Union Square.

Somerville has always been known as a working class city, one made up of resourceful people who have the ability to make something great with limited resources. Strong and capable, the city gets its industrial vibe from its industrious culture.

But as our lives increasingly move online, the way we work is changing—a shift made evident by the recent opening of several different shared workspaces. Multiple locations, all varying in their offerings and atmospheres, have popped up in the neighborhood. An office for those who have none, a place of inspiration, a social hub—these shared workspaces wear many hats.

Union Square
31 Union Sq.

Workbar set the tone for shared workspaces around Greater Boston when they unveiled their first location near South Station in 2009. The collaborative workspace soon set up shop in Central Square, the Union Square outpost opened in October 2015 and a new location in Arlington just opened earlier this year.

The company hasn’t stopped growing, either—it recently made headlines thanks to a first-of-its-kind partnership with Staples that will find Workbar stations set up in three different Staples shops. But while the company is partnering with a national office supply giant, Workbar hasn’t forgotten its Mass. roots. Their Union Square setting offers Somerville-specific amenities like discounts at Union Square Donuts and other area restaurants, a free day of climbing at Brooklyn Boulders and beer from Aeronaut.

On the “work” side of the equation, amenities include two meeting rooms that can seat six to 10 people, fully equipped with audio and visual equipment and white boards. There’s free wifi, phone booths where members can make private calls and bottomless coffee and tea. Community outreach events will be hold to connect and inspire Workbar members. The most recent was a coffee tasting where workers sampled different roasts. “It was a great way to start the day,” says Union Square Workbar manager Anne Sholley. Because Workbar partners and shares its space with the redevelopment firm Union Square Station Associates (US2), there is a focus on community involvement here. “There’s a large emphasis on community development, the Green Line Extension and civic engagement,” says Sholley. She and her coworkers want to keep their members informed and involved.

Workbar offers month-to-month memberships for their users and numerous payment plans—space can cost anything from $30 for a day pass to $600 for a permanent work space. (“We don’t want to see them bound to a year membership like an office,” says Sholley.) Multiple options are listed, which gives variety to Workbar’s vast range of users.

“Union Square is our smallest location, but in a good way,” says Sholley. “It’s for people who want to be mellow. It’s a productive, supportive, energizing environment to get work done.”


Davis Square
212 Elm St., Third Floor

Looking for the perfect place to grow your startup or nonprofit? Canopy is the workspace for you. Though it’s a new entry into the region’s shared workspace scene—it just launched in January—Canopy is already making quite an impact on the Somerville startup community.

While many shared offices provide space and amenities to the workers that come their way, Canopy actually gets involved in the day-to-day production of each of the companies that call their location home. With connections throughout the Boston tech and nonprofit communities, as well as an international reach that extends as far as Portugal and the UK, the Canopy team wants to help entrepreneurs in any way that they can, in any aspect of their business. The idea is to help foster a community of “social impact” and to make real change and growth in Somerville and beyond, says co-founder Simon Towers.

Matt Hoey, Canopy’s managing director and co-founder, is a fifth-generation Somervillian. He knows the neighborhood well, and knows what the working community is looking for. “A lot of the workspaces are real corporate places. Here, we get invested in out startups. They don’t just want amenities, they want access to capital and connections,” says Hoey.

In just the short time that Canopy has been around, 54 startups have already set up shop with them. One of them, Jobletics, is an Uber-eque digital service, but for restaurant employees instead of rides. Users can pick up last minute open shifts at local food establishments, which gives short-staffed businesses access to a wide range of eager employees. Rahul Harma, founder of Jobletics, says his company “wouldn’t have happened” if it weren’t for Canopy.

At night, Canopy leaves its doors open. “We don’t believe in being closed,” says Towers. They allow local nonprofits to use their space for free. One of the greatest problems facing nonprofit organizations, he says, is simply paying rent. Hoey says, “We put a roof over their heads.” The nonprofits that do have a Canopy membership are able to access the space at a reduced monthly rate.

By pairing startups with nonprofits, Canopy hopes to inspire both businesses, giving them access to people they might not normally be around.

“We cross-pollinate, educate and activate,” says Hoey, of the Canopy experience. “Innovation is not an exclusive club.”


Union Square
375 Somerville Ave.

“Cove is a lifestyle product,” says Cove co-founder and CEO Adam Segal. “It’s not an office—it’s closer to a coffee shop. It’s a home where you can get things done.”

Cove is new to the neighborhood, but Segal really wants the company to be a part of it. Founded just two years ago in D.C, Cove has since set up nine locations there with two in the Boston area. And Segal is himself no stranger to the Somerville community and the hardworking spirit that accompanies it—he attended grad school at Harvard and lived in Inman Square during his time there.

Segal sees Cove as a stepping stone. “It’s a lifestyle where work fits into your life,” he explains, “not the other way around.” Members pay a fee of $89 per month for 4 hours of daily access. Day passes are available to non-members, and there are other payment plans for those who want to use Cove more or less. The plan allows their users to come and go to Cove as they please. “It’s access to a space that allows people to be productive and be around others,” says Segal.

Grad students, freelancers and remotely-employed workers can all be found spending their days at Cove, and wifi, printers, scanners—and a bottomless supply of coffee—are provided. “We focus on behavioral needs as opposed to industry,” says Segal. Cove members get a discounts at Union Square eateries Fortissimo Coffeehouse and El Potro, encouraging them to reach out and explore the neighborhood that they’re part of.

There are different areas for different kinds of noise levels—conference rooms and individual call boxes are available. Six different types of seating are offered: standing desks, stools, comfy chairs, desk chairs, benches and conference-room style chairs. The Cove team took every aspect of the environment they created into consideration—from seating options to the colors on the walls.

“We use a mute but vibrant blue, but not too blue,” says Segal. “There’s a pop of orange for activity, to keep you going. But it’s also a comfortable atmosphere.” brooklyn boulders

Brooklyn Boulders
Porter Square
12A Tyler Street

Though the name says Brooklyn, Brooklyn Boulders is no stranger to Massachusetts. The climbing gym/yoga studio/shared workspace has been located in Somerville since 2013. And while it started as a center for the community to climb, it slowly evolved into a place that serves “a lot of different interests,” says Alex Graziano, marketing manager for the Somerville location. It’s a new idea, and serves as a testing ground.

It’s an inspirational outlet for those of all kinds and from all sectors. Work, play and personal life mix and mingle in this arena, which makes BB an extremely unique and specialized environment. Though the business originally began in Brooklyn, they now have four other locations: Somerville, Chicago and Queensbridge.

A vast swath of folks have found a home at BB. Climbers, exercise nuts, freelancers, developers—you name it, anyone in the Somerville community is able to find someone like them working away at BB. In fact, a few companies have been started within their premises.

To cater to the diverse interests of this eclectic clan, BB brings in many different events to help inspire their creative clientele. Lagunitas Beer recently sponsored a concert in their space.

Brooklyn Boulders offers space for members to meet as a team, by themselves, or in a comfortable social “lounge” atmosphere. “It’s fun, it’s not silent. It’s very active,” says Graziano of the environment.

Day passes cost $25 and last the whole day, and a 10-day pass goes for $225. Access to BB free wifi, workspaces, yoga classes (held 3 to 4 times a day), shower/sauna use and exercise equipment are just a few of the amenities included in the price of admission. Student discounts are offered for those with a college ID.

“People can exercise multiple assets of their personality. They can exercise, socialize and produce work,” says Graziano.