An Uncommon Melting Pot: Commonplace slated to open third co-working space

A lawyer, a graphic designer and a business consultant walk into an office … and it’s no joke. It’s the way Commonplace, a co-working space, functions on a daily basis.

And if not a lawyer, designer and consultant, it may be a social worker, a business broker or a home inspector – all those and more have called Commonplace their workspace at one time or another.

Commonplace is the brainchild of attorney Kate Redman, who opened the place to “provide better service to community-oriented organizations,” she said.

Plus there was the fact that Redman, who was providing legal services to smaller organizations and non-profits, needed office space herself.

Eighteen months ago she set up her own 501(c)3; now there are 30 organizations and some 50 people sharing space at one of two locations. The Commonplace Loft is located at 223 Lake Ave.; the Commonplace Box is at 425 Boardman Ave. Redman also brought in Elise Crafts, a consultant who works with government, developers and other organizations on land-use policy, to assist her, and the two are now the faces of Commonplace.

Both locations offer the prospect of private offices as well as a common area workspace. There are shared resources such as a kitchen, restrooms, copiers and other office equipment.

Mark VanderKlipp was the first “Commonplacer.” The onetime president of Corbin Design had made the decision to leave the organization and go out on his own; his office was typically the Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere Avenue.

“I was introduced to Kate and she was starting a shared workspace,” said VanderKlipp, who bought in almost immediately, and was soon working alongside Redman to transform the space on Lake Street.

“I was painting and priming,” he said with a laugh. “[Now] she’s my landlord and my attorney.”

VanderKlipp says he likes to move back and forth between locations depending on the weather.

“I’m a rover. I move between spaces,” he said. “I go to the Box when it’s sunny. It has better windows.”

Megan Olds is another Commonplacer. The owner of Parallel Solutions, she works with governmental units and nonprofit organizations that are moving from vision to action. Her clients include TART Trails, Crosshatch and the Army Corps of Engineers.

As an entrepreneur, she has no need for a large office, and said that when she found out about Commonplace she was “intrigued.”

“I’ve known Kate for a while,” said Olds, who served with Redman on the SEEDS board of directors. “I had an office on Front Street. I loved where I was at, but I felt this would be a great fit.”

Both Olds and VanderKlipp say they enjoy the spontaneous interactions that happen at Commonplace.

“Some people come in every day, nine to five; others are more flexible. The days are different, it’s chance encounters,” said Olds. “It’s ever-evolving. I met a guy yesterday I hadn’t met before.”

VanderKlipp said the shared space helps former strangers bounce ideas and mutually beneficial opportunities off one another.

“There’s a lot of interaction, sharing information and experiences,” he said. “We take advantage of others’ strengths.”

Among the other organizations renting space of one sort or another are Parallel 45 Theatre, On the Ground, Krios Consulting, Building Bridges with Music, Golden Circle Advisors, Inc., North Coast Home Inspection and SEEDS.

A co-working membership is $100 per month, while an office space is $400 per month. There are other models for those looking for occasional use as well. Redman said there is a waiting list for office spaces. She offers tours each Friday and other events for sharing resources and opportunities.

The high demand means a new Commonplace is slated for construction across Eighth Street from The Box, Redman said.

“Developer Joe Sarafa approached Chris Treter of Higher Grounds Coffee, and Chris approached me,” said Redman about the space, which is scheduled to break ground next spring.

Redman wants to make it clear that she didn’t start Commonplace as a way to benefit her law practice. From a financial perspective, Redman said her law practice would probably be better off if she had more larger clients and fewer small nonprofit clients. In fact, she said it can’t help her bottom line, as that would violate Commonplace’s nonprofit status.

Not that she’s complaining.

“I can run into people I’d like to talk to,” she said.