Small Businesses Find Space to Grow in DowntownDC

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As several small businesses in Washington, D.C. grow, they are finding new spaces in DowntownDC where building owners are offering special deals to attract new tenants and retain existing ones.

That was the case for NSpireGreen, a five-year-old environmental consulting firm located in Washington, D.C. The company first began working at the Hive, a coworking space in Anacostia. But changes to the Hive’s pricing structure and a lack of space eventually led NSpireGreen co-owners Veronica Davis and Chancee Lundy to begin looking for a new office for their five-person firm.

They settled on a newly constructed 1,200 square foot space with two private offices, an open work space, a kitchen, and a conference room on 14th and K Streets NW. “Our biggest challenge was that building owners want to rent a whole floor. While there’s demand for 1,000-2,000 square feet spaces, most building owners don’t want to carve out something that small,” Davis said.

But thanks to the work of their broker, they ended up finding the perfect space and getting a great deal. “Downtown is expensive but we worked with a broker who did a great job of negotiating and we got a deal based on the fact that we’re a small business,” Davis said. “As for costs, it will be a bit more than what we’re paying now, but were getting more space.”

Davis also highlighted the building’s amenities, including multiple meeting rooms, indoor bike storage and shower facilities on the ground floor. “We were open to moving to other areas, including Navy Yard and Southwest, but it came down to space. The number one thing for us was having lots of windows. Then it was having multiple forms of transportation because we provide our employees with Smart Benefits, and also having access to [Capital] bikeshare.”

Many office tenants consider DowntownDC a superior value because tenants can take advantage of D.C.’s transportation network, location and amenities. “A lot of our staff bike or take the Metro so that was a huge benefit for us, being near so many Metro stations,” said Johan Hammerstrom, president of Community IT Innovators, an IT consulting company that moved from U Street to DowntownDC in December. “We’re close to the post office, there’s a Kinko’s, a lot of lunch options nearby – things we were missing on U Street that we didn’t even realize we were missing until we got Downtown.”

For 14 years, Hammerstrom’s company occupied the top two floors of a converted rowhouse on U Street. “I have so many fond memories of our time on U Street. The neighborhood has been dynamic and vibrant over the past 14 years, and we are grateful to have been a part of it all,” Hammerstrom wrote in a recent company blog post.

But while the 4,000 square foot space on U Street was long on the cool factor, it didn’t make sense for the company as it grew to 32 employees. “Where we ended up really made the most sense for us. The lack of having typical office amenities wasn’t working for us, and there was no place on U Street that suited us,” Hammerstrom said in an interview with DowntownDC BID. “Plus being closer to our clients was a nice benefit as well. It’s easier for our staff to go out and visit our clients. We work with 120 non-profit organizations and at least half, if not two-thirds of them are Downtown.”

Today, Community IT Innovators calls a 2,300 square foot office at 14th and L Street home. “One of the things we were looking for was flexibility. We have people who work from home or the client site and just drop in the office once in a while. The new space is a nice mix of a traditional office space and a shared office, like a WeWork type place,” Hammerstrom said.

Pricewise, according to Hammerstrom, the total occupancy costs ended up being the same. As far as being too expensive to rent Downtown, Hammerstrom said that might be true if you’re comparing DowntownDC to Bowie or somewhere in the suburbs, but it was the location they desired. “We wanted to stay in D.C. and of all the places we looked at, D.C. offered what we wanted and had a wider variety of office spaces. Our broker brought us about 12 different listings, there was so much to choose from.”

To learn about small business shared-space options in Downtown, check out our video on coworking spaces.