Saturday, May 14, 2011

Flex space and mixed-use buildings: changing times, new opportunities

By Dodie Jiffar
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

Business incubators have been around a long time. They provide office space for small businesses and start-up companies that is shared, making it more affordable than locating office space individually.

Business incubators are usually sponsored by community organizations that promote entrepreneurship through education and mentorship. There can be intense competition for spots in these coveted incubators. But where there’s competition, there is innovation.
Enter the flex space. The term flex space typically refers to larger offices that have been updated to allow several types of business in a single location such as light manufacturing and shipping. But today’s flex space is more versatile and more accessible.

Americans are working from home in record numbers, either as a telecommuters or as a self-employed contractors. This shift has led to home offices becoming the norm, either as a stand-alone room in a home, or simply a small area carved out for a small workspace that can also serve as (or flex) as living space. This idea has also merged with the rise of mix used buildings.

Land developers and city planners across the U.S. are embracing the idea of mixed-use buildings, which allow consumers to live, work and shop in the same area in some cases. These buildings typically feature an anchor business, such as a bank or grocery store, as well service-based businesses, such as dry cleaners and restaurants. These anchor or service-based businesses may be located on the ground level, while the apartment or condo units are on the upper floors. This flexible model has been expanded to include the small business owner. Mixed-use buildings seeking to attract small business owners often provide an apartment or condo that is attached to a business space, which has a separate street level entrance from the living quarters.

A few examples of various mixed-use buildings in Gulf Coast states include Houston’s CityCenter, the Downtown Development District in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the award-winning Tapestry Park European Village in Jacksonvilla, Florida.

Depending on the type of business and location of the building, the cost of renting or buying this type of flex space in a mixed-use building is often much less expensive than seeking out a separate office. This concept allows more people to bring their business aspirations into reality. 


  1. This is EXACTLY what I'm looking for. Do you have any leads on spaces/people who want to share a spot?

    Marian LaSalle

  2. Hi Marian! It is wonderful to know that we are featuring information of interest to our readers. I do not have any current leads on anyone who desires to share a space, but will certainly mention it to colleagues. I will share you information with them as well.

  3. Hi Marian,

    After a little investigation and I found a few leads for you:

    (1) The Texas Business Incubators Directory (October 2010):

    (2) Also, a list of Houston Incubators (below). I’m not sure of your specific needs, but based on my visit to your website, it seems as though the Technology Center of West Houston [Katydock] may be a good place to investigate.

    If you still need assistance don’t hesitate to comment on this post or contact us via e-mail!

  4. It is good to know that a lot of individuals and enterprises are embracing the concept of flex or shared office spaces. Many find this ideal office solution quite beneficial. Aside from being cost-efficient, it is also a way to meet other individuals in other fields. Sharing of ideas and innovations is a bonus.