Others have tried and failed to make a coworking space grow in Williamsburg. (The Makery is dead! Long live, Bnter’s new office!) But “real estate professionals” and born-and-raised Brooklynites Morris Levy and Richard Beyda may have the home-court advantage. The duo opened The Yard, a 14,000 square foot coworking space, in November and are already at 65 percent capacity.
A number of tech companies, including Hype Machine, Wanderfly, Mobile Roadie and Uber are already working out of the space, as well as a few startups still in splash page mode, like Gander TV and Spotflux. Somewhere between 60 to 70 percent of The Yard‘s residents are techies, although that wasn’t exactly the owners’ intention. “We knew there was a need in Williamsburg/Greenpoint for something like this, but we didn’t realize the tech scene was happening here and that that was the direction it was going to go,” Mr. Levy told Betabeat by phone.
Now that the startup syngery is under way, however, The Yard has been “planning strategic alliances” with angel investors whose portfolio companies might be interested in working there. For example, Mr. Levy said he’s currently in talks with Brooklyn Bridge Ventures founder and First Round Capital alum Charlie O’Donnell, who launched a Kings County-centric seed fund last month.
And what about the name? “Um, I dunno, it’s where you work, ‘I work in the Yard.’ It’s a space to work, so that’s what we call it,” said Mr. Levy, whose thick Brooklyn accent would not sound out of place in a Goodfellas remake.
Mr. Levy said he and Mr. Beyda got the idea to open a coworking space after looking at the possibility of working out of one of Manhattan’s suddenly-ubiquitous office-sharing arrangements. The same day he crunched the numbers, Mr. Levy happened upon the location, at 33 Nassau Avenue. “Being developers, we kind of overdid it with our Internet,” he said, referring to The Yard’s 100 megabit-per-second pipe. “A lot of people in other places were experiencing problems with their Internet and you know if you’re an Internet business, you can’t have an outage, so we have a lot of bandwidth here.”
“I certainly looked at GA when I was trying to find some office space, and certainly would consider it in the future, but I found it to be a bit…pretentious?” Mr. Root, who works out of the space, explained by email . “Unlike its Manhattan-based cousins, I’ve found people at The Yard to be just as talented but far more approachable. Maybe I’m just more comfortable with the Brooklyn vibe than the highly-caffeinated Apple-everything crowd in the city.”
“I don’t mean to be unfair to GA, they have accomplished something incredible,” he continued. “But The Yard struck me as more practical and comfortable.”
Although The Yard has been hosting events, like the North Brooklyn Breakfast Club, the General Assembly comparison seems far-fetched for now. “I’m a firm believer in not trying to be anything other than what you are,” said Mr. Levy. “As far as I’m concerned we’re done and the place is humming.”
Hype Machine founder Anthony Volodkin actually signed up as a tenant before construction on The Yard was complete. “We were looking for space in the fall (our first office ever, in our 6 bootstrapped years!) and I happened to see the new sign while cycling through Greenpoint as it was still being built,” Mr. Volodkin said by email. “Turned out it was an upcoming coworking space inside a beautiful industrial space, much of the great textures were preserved, so the place is modern while retaining bits of the old character. Many of us live around here, and there are lots of good coffee places around.”
Before The Yard, Hype Machine’s seven-person team worked from home or in coffee shops with the “occasional ‘office days,’ where we’d all meet up in my living room in Williamsburg,” he said.
Unlike the typical open floor plan, The Yard has about 100 offices to offer more privacy, although we’re not sure if that takes the “co” out of coworking. The space also offers 24-hour access. Mr. Levy said he is “on the selective side” in terms of what kinds of companies or workers he allows in to The Yard, but is open to anyone who could be who would identify as creative. “Some of my competitors are like, ‘If you’re not tech or a nerd, you can’t come in,’” said Mr. Levy. “We’re not that harsh.”