I can sum up The Office Pile space in three words – passion, pride, and soul. The Office Pile or TOP is a unique take on co-working with an unmistakable Hispanic/Latino influence. The space had been open for a little over six months when I visited it, but already had a substantial following. I spent a productive day working out of this co-work and was fortunate enough to have some one on one time with the owner and entrepreneur, Francisco Aguirre.
The space is absolutely unique among the co-works I visited. There is art everywhere – you might think it was a gallery. While other co-working spaces tend to have an overall modern minimalist startup feel in their choice of decor Aguirre has gone in the complete opposite direction. He populates the spanish mission style space with art from local artists and rotates the pieces that are displayed, regularly. As you enter TOP, there is an attractive and professional reception area with a massive bank safe door right there. In a previous life, the building served as a bank and Aguirre had the vision to keep the safe and turn it into a conference room. I had heard about the safe before I visited and, to be honest, I had my doubts about how it would work – thinking it would be cold and impersonal, however, I found the entire space to be warm and inviting – it works and it works well.
Passing through the reception there is a small hallway into the main co-working area. You’re eye will be drawn to the red leather chairs and the polished concrete floor. Approximately 1500 square feet of co-working desk space occupies the first floor with the area doubling as an event space. A number of what I like to refer to as “cafeteria style” desks form a rectangle at the center with chairs on the exterior and attractive black power strips that retract coming down from the ceiling. To someone from the outside, it might appear that all those at the desks are working on the same project – visually it imparts a sense of community. On the left side of the room is a lounge/meeting area and a number of dedicated cubicle work areas for those who had purchased a premium membership – and all appeared occupied. Just past the main co-working area, through an archway and to the left is the kitchen area. The kitchen is decorated with beautiful wooden booths that would put many cafes to shame – a nice change if you’re used to working out coffee shops. To the right of this is another conference room – this room is very bright and just like the rest of the space, decorated with local art. There is a wide staircase leading to the second floor. The second floor is divided between a large lecture room and dedicated quiet areas where members can come and work or simply relax and decompress. The two floors provide about 6,000 square feet for members to utilize. Although the place was busy, it was not to the point of distraction but rather, I found it to be energizing. Although the space is filled with artwork throughout, it maintains an overall business feel. All in all I found the TOP to be a pleasant, professional, and productive work environment.
TOP is centrally located on North 7th St., just South of Thomas Rd. There are two restaurants immediately next door and a coffee shop across North 7 St. and, although there are number of other restaurants and shops within walking distance they are sparsely distributed and not a quick walk. North 7th St is also quite busy at this location, you will not be sprinting across the street to get a cup of coffee as the street traffic is very busy. In general, based on walk-ability, I found the amenities within the neighborhood sufficient but a bit more spread out than I would like – full disclosure, I’m an NYC transplant and am used to having all I need within walking distance.
I always force myself to include a cons section even when I consider an overall favorable review as nothing is perfect. I found myself fairly smitten with TOP co-work so it took a bit of effort this time. Parking – while I had no issue finding some on the street, the space itself has limited parking so I had to seek street parking which, when they hold events there, certainly has the potential for some minor inconvenience. The decor – personally I loved the art on display, but I understand the abundance and type of art may not be appealing to everyone. This point came up when I spoke with Francisco and he agreed – so if you require cookie cutter, minimalist or ultra modern decor then The Office Pile is probably not for you. The space has a unique identity and proudly shows it off.
One of the things I enjoyed most about my visit to TOP was my conversation with Francisco. I had no idea who he was and had made no arrangement to meet with him prior to the visit, however, as I worked I kept noticing the traffic flow to the opposite end of the work area. When I inquired about why so many people were going back and forth to this one individual, I was told it was Francisco and was asked if I would like an introduction. We spent about 20 minutes chatting, discussing the evolution of the space and his vision for the space, co-working, art, and community. First off, I was immediately struck by his passion and the pride he took in his space. Secondly, it became apparent that this man fully understands co-working. Office space is easy to come by, community not so much. Moreover, community needs to be cultivated and specific – there is no one size fits all. As he phrased it – “a space needs to have a soul” – The Office Pile most definitely does. If you’re wondering if this space is for you I’d say look at the artwork on their flyer – do you find it intriguing? Engaging? If yes then 100% – this is your space. If not, consider taking a look anyway – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Next up: Desk Hub