Baring it all: the costs of Citizen Space

Posted on 20. Mar, 2007 by in blog, Coworking

We have received many questions on what it costs to run our coworking space and, although our situation isn’t ideal for everyone (we eat much of the cost of running the space), we have been pretty good about spending the minimum on things like furniture (Ikea) and equipment (eBay, sales + donations). We add some ‘touches’ that are pricey to the space that we think makes it special (like a space/event coordinator + fresh flowers weekly) and spend money on cleaners, etc. because we found people are too busy to pitch in consistently. These are sort of ‘luxury’ costs that aren’t necessary.

So, here are our costs (some of them averaged or estimated):

  • The base rent = $1500
  • The utilities (electric) = $150 (avg.)
  • The internet ( = $140
  • Cleaning service (2x/month) = $160
  • Water = $25
  • Nice flowers for the entry way (fresh every week) = $160
  • Original space investment = $10,000 (furniture, equipment, paint, labour)
  • We’ve now hired Tara 2.0 to help manage the space and events = $1500

Thus, monthly expenses work out to roughly $4,135/month (with furniture costs…and estimated replacement, upgrades, etc. estimated at $500/month). With 5 tenants, we collect $1750 (not including our ‘portion’), so we ‘eat’ about$2,385/month. We currently don’t charge for events unless they are charging (but we may start asking for a deposit based on some not-so-cool recent damage). We don’t want to rent out any more desks in the current space…if we expand to next door (here’s hoping), we willThat being said, we are always planning improvements to the space, we just want to be smart about them.

Our priorities for the next big spend are:

  • New windows in the back – for both sound & climate barrier (I think these will be costly…around $2,500)
  • Better projector screen (around $200)
  • Better phones for the front door (around $150)

Our amenities in the space include such things as:

  • Internet connection
  • Coffee/water/tea …usually snacks
  • A mini fridge for lunches + microwave and toaster oven for warming them up
  • A central stereo system, which individuals can control through airtunes
  • A fax machine/scanner/printer (two of them, actually)
  • A really nice space in an awesome location
  • A boardroom for private conversations (with a chandelier)
  • A library of business and tech books for borrowing
  • A lounge for customers to wait for you in
  • Really cool ongoing community events to tap into for networking
  • Whiteboards galore (even a rolling one for the active presenters)
  • A projector + screen
  • Desks (you can use our chairs, but they aren’t fancy, so we recommend you bring your own if you are a regular tenant)

We are also working on doing things like paying into carbon offsets and green certifying the space (Ivan talks about how we are doing this over here)

I think that’s it…If you have any questions…drop us a line!

8 Responses to “Baring it all: the costs of Citizen Space”

  1. daveyr 20 March 2007 at 4:24 pm #

    Question – is the goal behind your coworking space to be a profitable business venture? The reason why I ask is you seem to have very high costs (your losing cash monthly) and not taking in enough from your tenants.

    Why exactly are you doing this? what are your goals?

  2. Chris Messina 20 March 2007 at 4:31 pm #

    Hey Dave — really good question! ;)

    So far it’s an experiment — a costly one — but one that we think is worth it.

    So what makes it worth it? Well, for one thing, we need an office for Citizen Agency, the space’s sponsor — and we could have gotten one all by ourselves and saved some money, but we prefer working around other people (and we did the cafe thing for quite awhile and simply couldn’t bare taking clients to them anymore!).

    We also wanted a space for hosting events and for growing community. So far that seems to be working.

    It’s clearly not a sustainable venture, but the hardest part — attracting interesting people — seems to be working. Now if we can figure how to turn it into something that sustains itself, that’ll be even better.

    As for a money-making venture, we’d take community first — and find other ways to support ourselves (i.e. consulting or building products). So no, we’re not really looking to make money off the space — but instead use it as a tool to support our other work.

    Finally, our goals are to set a model — and an example — that others can learn from. So far we’re bootstrapping this and seeing what sticks. This way others can try it out and maybe learn from and avoid some of the mistakes that we’ll inevitably making getting it off the ground. So yeah, we’ll see things play out from here!

  3. SarahfromSeattle 23 April 2007 at 11:48 am #

    After spending a little over a week @ Citizen Space, I’ve got to say that I was really impressed with the office, people, environment, and community there. While some readers might question the “loss” expenses, the thing I picked up on at the office was that the coworking environment might actually increase your overall sales/partnerships/contracts, etc. What other office environment has incredible strangers walk in who you find so much in common with? So many events that leave you with business contacts and new friendships? Not many.

    Also, on the topic of costs, I think Citizen Space is in a unique cost position because of their San Fran location; the rent numbers (depending on what you’re looking at) in Seattle are much more affordable. I can think of a half dozen cities I’ve lived in where I’d be able to find a 5,000 square foot old building for $500 to $800 a month. Too bad all those spaces in Seattle are “going condo.”

    Anywho. Thanks to Chris and Tara for making these numbers public. It puts a bit more perspective on what it takes to make a space like their’s run.

  4. Graham Freeman 24 April 2007 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi, Tara,

    I attended a day-long public speaking workshop at Citizen Space this past Saturday, and I was impressed. I’ll probably be back to use the space for some client work and possibly see about using it for a tech co-op meeting as well.

    With regard to costs, you may want to know that in my 8.5 years of dealing with DSL in Northern California I’ve never dealt with a better vendor than They’re local – based in Santa Rosa; affordable – their most expensive business-class DSL package is half what you’re paying Speakeasy; and their customer service is top-notch. I realize that Speakeasy has an odd cult-like following in San Francisco, but I’m hoping that the Best Buy-out will cause people to re-evaluate the quality and practicality of their DSL vendors. (I’m connected to by virtue of the fact that I’ve been a happy customer for 7 years and know and like many of their long-term staff, including their founder/CEO.)


  5. Ben Metcalfe 2 June 2007 at 11:50 am #

    @Graham Freeman

    Sure, there are lots of cheaper DSL providers out there than Speakeasy. However what people forget when comparing DSL packages with Speakeasy is that they don’t require you to have your phoneline hooked up to AT&T. That saves you a lot of money to begin with — Citizen Space has a VoIP line for the door and the rest of the residents use cell phones or VoIP too.

    Speakeasy has incredibly good up-times and good customer service, and also don’t mind what you use your line for. You can host off of it if you want.

    The BestBuy merger may change that, although BestBuy want to focus on business use so for Citizen Space it may not be as much of a problem as residential customers.

  6. Krissy 15 July 2007 at 4:23 am #

    Thanks so much for posting this information. Although we’re in different countries it’s interesting to see what you’ve allowed for and your out-of-pocket expenses. This is the area that concerns me the most with my personal project.

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